The UFC isn’t content sitting around and waiting for middleweight champion Robert Whittaker to get healthy.
After an abdominal hernia and collapsed bowel forced Whittaker into emergency surgery and out of his middleweight title defense at UFC 234 against Kelvin Gastelum, the interim title will be on the line at UFC 236 on April 13, president Dana White told ESPN Tuesday afternoon.
Although White wouldn’t guarantee Gastelum a title fight following UFC 234, he’s granting him a shot at UFC gold against young up-and-comer Israel Adesanya. Adesanya stepped into the main event of UFC 234, where he outclassed MMA legend Anderson Silva to a decision victory and easily the biggest win of his career.
Adesanya sits at 16-0 in his career, rattling off five consecutive wins in the UFC in under one year. The 29-year-old Adesanya will battle Gastelum, who holds back-to-back victories over top middleweight contenders Jacare Souza and Michael Bisping.
There’s no concrete timetable for Whittaker’s return to the Octagon, much less training. He was released from the hospital three days after surgery, and his manager Titus Day told ESPN he won’t be able to do “much more than walk” for four to six weeks.
“I’d say he’ll be able to fight next sometime between June and August depending on recovery,” Day said. “Hopefully closer to June.”
Whittaker is on a nine-fight win streak, and he hasn’t lost since a knockout loss to Stephen Thompson in February 2014.