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Robert Whittaker set for hand surgery, hopes to return in 2018

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker told color commentator Joe Rogan on Saturday night that he couldn’t feel anything from his right hand all the way down to his elbow during his post-fight interview, you knew he’d have to sit out for awhile.

Whittaker suffered a broken hand in the first round of what was to be his first title defense against Yoel Romero in the main event of UFC 225 at Chicago’s United Center (Romero missed weight for the bout, making it a five-round non-title affair), then proceeded to fight with it for the next 20-plus minutes before earning the decision win.

On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Whittaker confirmed that he’s going to have surgery on the hand when he returns home to Australia.

“As soon as I get home, I’m going to have surgery to get a pin in the thumb,” Whittaker said.

The good news? As far as hand breaks are concerned, Whittaker’s was clean, which makes it likely this will be an easy recovery, barring any unforseen complications.

So the champ, who had to sit out nearly a year due to a broken leg and then a combination of a staph infection and chicken pox, is hopeful that he’ll be back in action before 2018 is through.

“It’s a clean break, as good as a break can get. It should be pretty good,” Whittaker said. “I’m going to get surgery, going to get my rehab, and get strong. I really want to be fighting before the New Year.”

One thing Whittaker hasn’t been able to figure out is when exactly the break happened. He knows it occurred during the first round, but can’t pin it to one particular punch. He just knows that at some point, his hand went numb.

“I don’t remember when I broke it,” Whittaker said. “But I do remember not being able to feel my hand from my fingertips to my forearm I knew something was up, because I never felt it like that before, I’ve broken hands before in fights, but I’ve never had it go that numb, completely unable to close it.”

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