UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was pulled from his UFC 234 headlining title defense against Kelvin Gastelum on Saturday just a few hours before fight time because of a severe medical condition.
Though the initial hope was that Whittaker's abdominal hernia would not require surgery, before the news even began to sink in, he was in surgery. Whittaker's management issued a statement on his behalf Saturday night, explaining to fans the seriousness of his condition and just how the situation unfolded.
"On behalf of Rob, we would like to update fans on his condition," read a post from 6 Degrees Management on Whittaker's Instagram account.
"Last night at roughly 9 p.m., Rob began experiencing intense abdominal pains that were brought to the attention of the UFC doctors. After several hours of observation, he was admitted to the hospital at 3 a.m. Rob is just out of dual surgery for a twisted and collapsed bowel in addition to an internal hernia of the intestine and will be recovering in hospital for several days.
"Rob will want to speak to his fans directly when he can. Rob is devastated that today's fight will not go ahead. Up until 5 minutes before going into surgery, Rob was insisting he would fight, but advice was that a blow to the stomach could be fatal.
"Rob will come back stronger and ready for what is to come. Thanks to the UFC, Kelvin and his team for your professionalism."
Though Gastelum was obviously disappointed, he has repeatedly wished Whittaker a swift return to good health, but also conducted several interviews in the backstage area at UFC 234 with a UFC championship belt slung over his shoulder, claiming that he is now the rightful UFC middleweight champion.
UFC officials confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that Gastelum is not recognized by the company as a champion. Whittaker remains the UFC middleweight champion.