UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker hoped to spend Sunday celebrating a successful title defense in his home country as he was set to headline UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia.
Then the pain began in his abdomen and his night ended in emergency surgery after being forced to pull out of his scheduled title defense against Kelvin Gastelum.
Whittaker posted a video to social media from his hospital bed on the frightening turn of events.
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Hey guys ! Still kicking. I'm sorry to all my friends, fans and family for not being able to get in there Sunday. Apparently if you get emergency surgeries you can't be cleared to fight. Thanks for the overwhelming support from all my fans I am so blessed to know you guys have my back. A big thanks to my team mates @fabricioitte @alexprates07 @standstrongboxingcoachjustin @justinlang_ep @titusday77 and all the others from behind the scenes you guys were there from start to finish worrying and prioritizing my health above all. Lastly to @danawhite and @ufc for the immediate help and support throughout the process of testing and the emergency surgeries. I am blessed I found out when I did and avoided life long consequences. I'll be back better than ever.
“I wanted to give you all an update on how I’m doing,” Whittaker said. “I’m still in the hospital. I had to get emergency surgery on Sunday because I had a collapsed bowel and an internal hernia that was causing me all sorts of problems.
“Let me say that I’m sorry to all my friends and family and fans that came out to watch me perform, but unfortunately I couldn’t be there. I tried my best to try and swing it. I was fighting the doctors the whole way up until they said, ‘You have to get surgery or you’re going to lose part of your bowel.’ Or it could be potentially fatal. I had to look at my health first. I’m sorry, guys.”
Whittaker hopes to make a quick recovery, though there is no timetable for his return. He could once again be matched up against Gastelum, though undefeated prospect Israel Adesanya defeated Anderson Silva in the new main event in Melbourne and staked a claim on the top contender spot as well.
Whittaker was just disappointed he couldn’t compete this weekend.
“It is what it is,” he continued. “You can’t plan for these things. I’m sorry to Gastelum because he came out here and prepped and I couldn’t give him a show. I want to say a special thank you to my teammates, coaching staff and my friends and family that helped me during the whole period. You guys know what it takes to keep me from the octagon. So for you guys to be behind me and supporting me and sending me your love like that, it means a lot to me. It really does. And it makes it easier for me to try even harder next time, to get in there and to put my soul on bare and put on a good show for you guys.”
Whittaker was also forced from a title fight in Australia in early 2018 due to a staph infection.
Nurmagomedov fires back at Nevada
Representatives for Khabib Nurmagomedov accepted a plea agreement with the Nevada Athletic Commission that called for a nine-month suspension for his role in a brawl after UFC 229 to be reduced by three months should he produce an anti-bullying PSA.
Apparently, the lightweight champion was less than enthusiastic about the deal.
He told reporters in Russia last week that he has no plans to participate in such a video and won’t fight until the one-year ban issued to his teammates for their roles in the post-fight brawl at T-Mobile Arena expires anyway.
“(The NAC) said to take part in a social campaign,” Nurmagomedov said in an interview first translated by BloodyElbow.com. “The state of Nevada is a place where they allow drugs, prostitution and gambling.
“Let them work on themselves. There were fighters who didn’t fight for two years and didn’t have their belts taken for a year and a half. I’m ready to fight, they were the ones who banned me.”
Nurmagomedov would like to fight in New York in November.
UFC president Dana White has indicated the organization will introduce an interim title to the division should Nurmagomedov choose to sit out a full year from the date of his incident in October.
“Guys can’t sit out and wait that long if they have the title, you can’t do it,” White said at the post-UFC 234 news conference. “So if that’s true and he is going to do that, then we have to figure out something else. You start looking at whether it’s Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson, or one of these other guys. Whoever wants to.
“When opportunity knocks, answer the door. So we will see how this thing plays out. That’s the criteria.”
Donald Cerrone has indicated he will fight McGregor later this year, but White said nothing is done at this point.
Velasquez set to return on ESPN
Former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will return to the cage for the first time since July 2016 when he takes on Francis Ngannou in the main event of ESPN’s first network card on Sunday night.
The main card of UFC on ESPN 1, which takes place in Phoenix and also includes a lightweight bout between Paul Felder and James Vick, airs at 6 p.m. Preliminary card bouts will also air on the network at 4 p.m.