If Kelvin Gastelum wants to claim UFC gold, he’s going to have to head into enemy territory to get it.
UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (20-4) will defend his middleweight title against Gastelum (15-3) at UFC 234 on Feb. 10 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, the promotion announced Tuesday morning. The date was first reported by ESPN.
Whittaker and Gastelum are currently being featured as opposing coaches on season 28 of The Ultimate Fighter and it was previously announced that Gastelum would challenge for the middleweight title at an unconfirmed date. Both fighters appeared on the show as contestants earlier in their careers (Gastelum on TUF 17, Whittaker on TUF: The Smashes), winning their respective seasons.
This will be Whittaker’s first official title defense. The 27-year-old Sydney resident won a split decision over Yoel Romero at UFC 225 this past June in what was supposed to be a championship bout, but Romero failed to make weight for the contest, rendering himself ineligible to win the title.
It was the second straight decision win for Whittaker over Romero. He also defeated Romero at UFC 213 to claim an interim title that was later promoted to undisputed status when champion Georges St-Pierre vacated his belt for health reasons. In all, Whittaker has won his last nine fights.
Gastelum has won three of four fights (excluding a TKO win over Vitor Belfort that was overturned to a no contest when Gastelum tested positive for marijuana) since returning to 185 pounds. The 27-year-old was an emerging contender at 170 pounds, but the move was necessitated by his inability to consistently hit the welterweight mark. At middleweight, he has firmly established himself as a top talent and title contender.