UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker was supposed to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC 234 earlier this month, but was unfortunately forced out of the fight on the day of, and rushed to the hospital with a collapsed hernia.
Whittaker now faces a tough recovery process that could keep him out of action for some time. To combat his absence, the UFC has booked an interim middleweight title fight between Israel Adesanya and Gastelum for UFC 236 on April 13.
Speaking to ESPN recently, Whittaker shared his ideal timeframe for his return — though he admitted things are still quite up in the air.
“They said that after about two weeks I can start to walk again and then about four weeks I can start to ease back into training and movement and things like that and then just take it from there,” Whittaker said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “The main thing is not to lift because obviously my intestine and bowels are a bit funny with the scarring and cuts that I had to get.
“. . . I’ve penned in my diary ‘August’ but my biggest calendar is just my health. I’ve never had a hard timeline on when I fight ever. It’s just one of those things, I need to get better, when I’m better I train, and then I fight to the best of my ability. So I think August is a good date. I think, obviously I have to let Adesanya and Gastelum fight and then when they’re ready I’ll give them a run.”
While Robert Whittaker is happy that Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya have found a way to stay busy in his stead, he does seem to think there are more deserving contenders for a shot at the interim belt.
He’s also wondering if the pair with fight for Henry Cejudo’s flyweight belt, which Gastelum famously borrowed after UFC 234.
“I was happy for them,” Whittaker said. “I think it’s good. I think it’s good for both of them. I think they jumped the queue a little bit and I feel for the other middleweight contenders, the top dudes, but I think it’s good for them to fight it out, to have to have that run before they get a shot at me. I need a little bit of time and they’ve got something to do now.
“ . . . A better thing to ask is are Adesanya and Gastelum gonna fight for Cejudo’s belt? [Laughing] Or is it gonna be a new one? Does he give it back? I’m not sure.”
When do you think we’ll see Robert Whittaker back in the cage?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/25/2019.