When Robert Whittaker failed to answer the call at UFC 234, opponent Kelvin Gastelum crowned himself middleweight champion, then started parading around Melbourne with a UFC title — on loan from flyweight champion Henry Cejudo — draped over his shoulder.
It was like this, only less smarmy.
But even though Whittaker is facing pressure from other top contenders to surrender his strap, “The Reaper” is not going to roll over just yet. In fact, the Aussie plans to be back inside the cage by June, according to his manager.
“I thought it was cute,” Whittaker told Grange TV Podcast (via Sporting News) about Gastelum’s stunt. ”You know when your kid finds your work belt at home and starts wearing it around the house? It was adorable. I feel bad that he trained and made the trip out here and I couldn’t give it to him. I apologize for that, but my health comes first.”
Whittaker was hospitalized following the UFC 234 weigh ins and underwent emergency surgery to correct a hernia, as well as a twisted and collapsed bowel. In his absence, Israel Adesanya outpointed Anderson Silva to establish his place among the division’s top contenders.
That means the promotion must decide to rebook Whittaker vs. Gastelum, or pit Adesanya against Gastelum for the interim title if “The Reaper” is unable to obtain medical clearance within a reasonable amount of time.
All we can do at this point is wait and see, which could give Gastelum time to address that awful growth on the back of his neck. While it may not have ended with a trip to the hospital, it still raised some concern among his fellow fighters.
“His health was looking a bit shocking as well,” the Aussie said. “It’s one of those things. Maybe it was better for both of us.”