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Morning Report: UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker breaks silence on health scare

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Last July, Robert Whittaker became the UFC interim middleweight champion after winning a unanimous decision over Yoel Romero at UFC 213. He was then supposed to unify his title with the winner of the middleweight title fighter Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre fight at UFC 217. St-Pierre submitted Bisping and Whittaker was hopeful for a title shot, but instead, St-Pierre vacated the title and Whittaker was promoted to full champion and set to defend his belt against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221. Unfortunately, fate struck again and Whittaker was forced out of that fight due to a staph infection. Now though, the undisputed middleweight champion says things are back on track for him.

Speaking at the UFC 221 open workouts (video via Submission Radio) in Sydney, Australia, Whittaker addressed his medical troubles and what kept him from fighting on the UFC’s return to his home country.

“Everyone knows I like to fight injured,” said Whittaker. “Half the fights I’ve taken I’ve always been injured. Just before I got ill, I pulled my hamstring. We could work around it and we were doing things to compensate for it, we were working around it, but then I got a really bad infection and the infection and the antibiotics just took it out of me. I was really struggling to recover and then right at the end of the infection, I got the chickenpox [laughs]. That’s why I’ve got the scars all over my face. It was an absolute mess. If anyone’s had it, it’s just horrible [laughs].”

With Whittaker off the card, Yoel Romero stepped in to face Rockhold for an interim title, with the winner ostensibly fighting Whittaker later on in the year. It’s one of the best possible fights in the division and one Whittaker says he’s glad they’re doing because the fans will love it.

”When they offered this outcome to me I was delighted,” said Whittaker. “The number one and number two contenders get to bash each other, and I was just like, ‘Yes. Good. Please.’ As a fan of this sport, I would’ve paid to watch this fight. This is a fight I think people want to see, and I’m more than happy to bash Yoel again or I’m more than happy to give it to Rockhold as well. We’ll see.”

Rockhold is the former middleweight champion, having lost the belt to Michael Bisping at UFC 199. He rebounded from that loss with a second round throttling of David Branch in September. Romero is an Olympic silver medalist who came up on the wrong end of a close decision against Whittaker for the (then) interim title but hasn’t been back in the cage since. The winner will rightfully have earned a shot at the real belt.,

Whittaker certainly thinks so anyway, and having returned to training earlier this week, the middleweight champ says he hopes he’ll be able to defend his title against the winner sometime mid-year.

”I’m just focused on recovering,” Whittaker said. “I’m gonna let Yoel and Rockhold punch it out a bit, but things are good and I’m looking for a big return mid-year. So let’s see what happens.”


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Math. John Dodson accepts ‘MMA math’ title of ‘heavyweight champion of the world.’


VIDEO STEW

Conor.

TTTHS.

Floyd really does run MMA.

Chael has cracked this Da Vinci code.

He’s not wrong.

Dang. Dana missed out on this PPV.

Khabib training.


LISTEN UP

The MMA Beat. Luke leads the charge against Stipe-DC and other discussions.

Joe Rogan Experience. Joey Diaz joins for some Khabib-Ferguson talk.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Very cool of Conor.

These things are not the same.

Don’t give anyone ideas.

No beef.

Adorable.

Unpossible to promote this man.

Roy learning some tricks.

Lol.

That’s the spirit.


FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Bobby Green (24-8-1) vs. Beneil Dariush (7-2-1); UFC 222, March 3.

Fabricio Werdum (23-7-1) vs. Alexander Volkov (29-6); UFC London, March 17.


TODAY IN MMA HISTORY

2008: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira won the interim UFC heavyweight title, submitting Tim Sylvia at UFC 81.

2013: Jose Aldo won a unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar at UFC 156 to retain his featherweight championship.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Guys, I hate to break it to you but Floyd and Conor are definitely going to rematch this year. That’s just a thing that is going to happen so let’s all be prepared for that.

That’s all for this week, folks. Enjoy the fights this weekend and see everyone on Monday.


EXIT POLL

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