Whittaker out of title defence at UFC 234

Joann Johnston
February 10, 2019

In a massive blow to the UFC 234 card, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will have to bow out of the main event due to a "severe abdominal injury requiring emergency surgery" suffered the night before his fight against Kevin Gastelum, the UFC announced Saturday.

ESPN's Brett Okamoto reported the news, citing UFC chief Dana White.

Evidently, Whittaker began complaining of pain in his abdomen during the middle of the night and was taken to the hospital.

A non-title middleweight bout between rising star Israel Adesanya (15-0) and Anderson Silva (34-8) will now headline UFC 234, which sold out in minutes when tickets first went on sale.

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Whittaker was hoping his health woes were behind him and said before he was ruled out that he was relishing the test Gastelum posed.

The event was scheduled to take place in Melbourne, Australia, due to the 28-year-old's status as the first Australian to hold a UFC belt. Both fighters possess long limbs, silky unpredictable movement, a love for comic and anime and endless cardio but being the kings of walking the walk makes their talk even more intriguing. It's just the second time two winners of "The Ultimate Fighter" will meet for a UFC title.

Whittaker praised Gastelum as a challenger and even called him "one of the most unsafe fighters to date".

Elevated to the co-main is the lightweight matchup between Albuquerque action hero Lando Vannata and surging Brazilian Marcos Mariano. Gastelum's split-decision victory over the former fighter at UFC 224 in May 2018 earned him this title shot.

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