UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was expected to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia on Saturday night. In a devastating, fight-day twist, however, Whittaker was forced out of this battle with a hernia, and rushed into surgery on the very evening he was supposed to compete.
If the champ had gotten his way, however, the fight might have gone ahead as planned — hernia and all.
Speaking to MMA Fighting, Whittaker’s jiu-jitsu coach Alex Prates claimed the champion was prepared to fight through his injury.
“He had abdominal pain and was finally taken to the hospital by the UFC at 1am and was trying everything to remain in the fight, refusing any treatment that would force him out of the fight,” Prates said. “He underwent emergency surgery at 4:30am due to a hernia that could affect his intestine.”
”F*ck, he didn’t want the surgery, he wanted to fight,” Prates said. “‘Can we do it another day?’ A samurai, wanting to fight no matter what, but there was no negotiation with the medical team. The problem was very serious, and right now all the team is focused on Robert’s health and his recovery.”
Robert Whittaker has not fought since June of 2018, when he engaged in his second five-round war with the behemoth Yoel Romero. Unfortunately, because Romero missed weight for the fight, Whittaker’s decision victory did not technically register as a title defense.
His next most recent fight was also against Romero, as he captured the interim middleweight belt with another decision victory over the Cuban.
Provided Robert Whittaker heals quickly, it sounds as though the UFC’s intention is rebook his planned fight with Kelvin Gastelum — perhaps as soon as April.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/9/2019.