After Robert Whittaker began experiencing abdominal issues overnight, the UFC middleweight champion was forced out of his scheduled title defense against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234.
ESPN reported late Saturday afternoon Whittaker would be undergoing emergency surgery on an abdominal hernia, and thus unable to compete.
Whittaker’s situation could have been significantly worse had he made the trek to the Octagon Saturday night, according to UFC president Dana White. Whittaker hasn’t lost since 2014, holding a nine-fight win streak, including consecutive victories over Joel Romero.
Gastelum won consecutive fights before his scheduled title fight, knocking out Michael Bisping and earning a decision victory over Ronaldo Souza.
“This was one of those freak accidents where the doctor said he’d literally never seen this type of injury in a young person – this usually happens to old people,” White said on the ESPN prelims, according to MMA Junkie. “… They think he’s had this problem and it’s been going in and out, and it’s one of those situations had it popped out during the fight, it could have been fatal for him. We don’t know exactly what happened with the doctor. Hopefully they popped it back in and sewed it up, and if that’s the case, it’ll be four weeks. But this was a freak, freak injury.”
As of now, White hasn’t acknowledged if the UFC will present Gastelum an opportunity to get his rightful fight for the middleweight crown, or if he’ll have the opportunity to fight for an interim championship in Whittaker’s absence.