UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was not able to defend his belt at UFC 234.
Hours before the pay-per-view event unfolded, the star of the main event clash pulled out of his fight against Kelvin Gastelum after he was diagnosed with a hernia.
It was not the first time the Australian champion withdrew from a title bout.
At UFC 221 in February last year, “The Reaper” was also forced to sit out in his title-retention bid against Luke Rockhold.
But this time, the injury was more gruesome, according to UFC top honcho, Dana White.
Breaking: Robert Whittaker is out of the UFC 234 main event against Kelvin Gastelum due to a hernia in his abdomen, UFC president Dana White told Brett Okamoto. pic.twitter.com/j4klssAWpM
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 9, 2019
Robert Whittaker was slated to defend his 185-lb belt in front of his home fans at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Saturday night.
His clash with Kelvin Gastelum was booked for the main event of UFC 234, the first pay-per-view event of the Nevada-based promotion in 2019 under the ESPN banner.
It will be the Aussie’s first official title-defence, and the home crowd was all set to cheer in unison as tickets for the events were sold out.
A day before his intriguing showdown with Gastelum, the middleweight champion even told his less than 500 000 followers that he was more than ready to take on the “Soldier of God.”
“Never been better prepared or more ready!!! BRING. IT. ON,” he wrote on Instagram.
Asked about his prediction for the fight, the 28-year-old fighter told News Corps Australia earlier this week that his elite striking will severely punish his challenger.
“I see myself hitting Kelvin until he falls.”
“I’m just too strong for him, too fast; I hit too hard,”
“I’m better in every single way…. and I’m really going to hurt the guy.”
But none of these happened on Saturday as the middleweight champion suffered a gruesome injury, which forced him out of the UFC 234 headliner.
Early reports did not reveal the extent of Whittaker’s injury.
It was the UFC boss who provided details on what he called “a freak injury less than one per cent,” which could sideline the Aussie for a month.
“He’s in the recovery room. I was with his wife and family,” White said in the post-fight press conference.
“This is one of those freak accidents where the doctor said literally they’ve never seen this type of injury in a young person.”
“This usually happens to old people.”
“His bowel and intestines poked through the hole. It didn’t happen yesterday after the weigh-ins.”
“They think he’s had this problem and it’s been going in and out. It’s one of those situations had it popped out during the fight it could have been fatal for him.”
“This is really serious.”
“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 he’ll be out four weeks. This was a freak injury. Less than one per cent.”
With Whittaker pulling out of UFC 234, Israel Adesanya’s showdown with returning Anderson Silva headlined the event.
The middleweight prospect earned himself a potential shot at a UFC gold after outstriking the MMA legend in a classic three-round contest.
(Featured Image Source: Instagram/ Robert Whittaker and YouTube/The Mac Life)