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Morning Report: Manager says Robert Whittaker could be ready for NYC card — and Chris Weidman would be ‘perfect’ foe

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

At UFC 225 last month, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker edged out a split decision over Yoel Romero despite “Soldier of God” dropping Whittaker multiple times in the bout. Unfortunately for Whittaker, due to Romero missing weight for their rematch, the bout was a non-title fight and so the man affectionately known as “Bobby Knuckles” was denied having a successful title defense on his record. Now though, Whittaker is reportedly looking to achieve that goal later this year, and against a former champion no less.

Speaking with The Daily Telegraph recently, Whittaker’s manager, Titus Day, said that the middleweight champion is hoping to fight at the UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden at the end of the year, preferably against third-ranked middleweight contender Chris Weidman.

“So Madison Square Garden is a possibility,” Day said. “Rob’s the middleweight champ and his last two fights have been wars. So if his hand heals up as quickly as we’re hoping, we would definitely push for him to compete at the greatest fight arena in the world. And Chris Weidman, as the former champ, would be a perfect rival for that fight.”

Whittaker broke the thumb in his right hand in the first round of his rematch with Romero and had surgery not long after the fight to repair it. Though he was originally hoping to return in 2018, Day says that the procedure went so well, Whittaker believes he will be ready to get back in the cage by the end of the year.

“I’ve spoken to Rob this week and he definitely wants to be ready by the end of the year,” Day said. “His surgery went well, it was a clean break which is the best you can get, and there doesn’t seem to have been any complications. So if all goes well, we’ll definitely look at that New York card. It’s traditionally one of the biggest on the UFC calendar and after the way Rob has won his last two fights over in the States, there is huge interest in him now.”

Weidman is also currently recovering from a thumb injury and estimates a return to action by the end of the year. He won the UFC middleweight title by becoming the first man to defeat Anderson Silva in the UFC and then went on to had a successful run as champion before losing the belt to Luke Rockhold in 2015, a loss that precipitated a three fight skid for Weidman. However, the former champion was able to rebound with a submission over Kelvin Gastelum last July, and as Gastelum has staked his own claim for a middleweight title shot, that has increased Weidman’s standing in the conversation.

The UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden is currently set for UFC 230 on Nov. 3.


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