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Israel Adesanya believes Robert Whittaker should be stripped of UFC middleweight title

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For someone who had to undergo emergency hernia surgery over the weekend, UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker doesn’t seem to be getting that much sympathy.

First, Kelvin Gastelum, who was scheduled to fight Whittaker in the main event of UFC 234 on Saturday night, paraded around at Rod Laver Arena carrying a UFC title belt and claiming to be the real champion.

Now, the man who stepped up into the main event in Melbourne, Israel Adesanya, says the time has come for Whittaker to be stripped of the belt.

Asked whether he and Gastelum should fight for an interim 185-pound belt as Whittaker recovers from surgery, Adesanya seemed open to the idea of the fight itself, but not so much about putting an “interim” tag on the title.

“I think Robert should get stripped,” Adesanya told host Luke Thomas on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “When he gets healthy, he could be the number one contender, so me and Kelvin should fight for the real belt.”

The way Adesanya sees it, Whittaker hasn’t been the most active of champions. Technically speaking, he’s yet to defend what was initially won as an interim title when he defeated Yoel Romero at UFC 213 in July 2017.

Whittaker was supposed to defend his championship against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221, but had to pull out four weeks before the bout due to the aftereffects of staph infection in his stomach. Then, his rematch with Romero at UFC 224 became a non-title affair when Romero missed weight, which was no fault of Whittaker’s.

The champ was finally ready to defend the belt last weekend before he fell ill, and according to a report by MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz, wanted to postpone surgery until after the fight.

But Adesanya believes at this point Whittaker’s inactivity makes him similar to former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who was stripped after longstanding injury issues.

“This is not the first time that he’s had to pull out due to injury or something like that and Dominick Cruz, eventually he got stripped,” Adesanya said.

“The Last Stylebender,” who was promoted to the main event of UFC 234 and earned a unanimous decision victory over Anderson Silva, wonders if there’s something in Whittaker’s training methods which has led to his repeated illnesses.

“Maybe it’s because of his training, maybe it’s because of the way he, I don’t know what his training is like,” Adesanya said. “But I look after myself. I don’t know what causes hernias, I’ve seen how they happen and whatnot but I don’t know what causes it exactly. But, yeah. I look after myself. I show up.”

That’s why Adesanya believe if he ends up matched up with Gastelum, there should be no “interim” tag on a title fight.

“F*ck the interim,” Adesanya said. “Strip Rob, we fight for the real belt, and when he’s healthy he can come see me.”