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Morning Report: Robert Whittaker discusses Kelvin Gastelum’s ‘adorable’ stunt at UFC 234 and who he will fight next

Robert Whittaker Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The day before UFC 234, Robert Whittaker was forced to withdraw from his scheduled title defense due to a collapsed bowel that required emergency surgery. It was a crushing blow for Whittaker who released a statement from his hospital bed apologizing to his fans and to Gastelum. Fortunately, everything went fine with the surgery and Whittaker’s manager says they are targeting a return to action this summer and the UFC middleweight champion has now confirmed that goal.

Speaking on his own YouTube channel, Grange TV, Whittaker addressed what happened ahead of UFC 234 and what his return plan looks like.

“I’m in good spirits,” Whittaker said. “I’m thankful that I still have my health and that they found it before I fought and I can walk away from this and fight at a later date. My whole thing is I want to heal, train, and then fight. My health comes first. I need to make sure I’m healthy and then I’ll fight anyone, anywhere.”

Whittaker also addressed Gastelum’s declaration that he was not the middleweight champion after Whittaker failed to show up, laughing it off and saying that it may have been better they didn’t fight considering Gastelum’s own health issues.

“I thought it was cute,” Whittaker said. “You know when your kid finds your work belt at home and then he starts wearing it around the house? That’s kind of how I saw the whole thing. It was adorable.

“I feel bad for him that he trained and made the trip out here and then I couldn’t give it to him. I apologize for that but obviously my health comes first. It is what it is. . . His health was looking a bit shocking as well. It’s just one of those things. Maybe it was better for both of us.”

This week, Gastelum admitted to having contracted a staph infection ahead of UFC 234 but said the UFC medical team was prepared to allow him to compete. Of course, that never happened and now Gastelum is stuck in limbo waiting to see if Israel Adesanya, who beat Anderson Silva at UFC 234, will now leapfrog him for a title fight when Whittaker does return. Whittaker himself doesn’t know what’s going to happen and doesn’t care much either. He’s just happy with how vibrant the middleweight division has suddenly become.

“With Anderson and Adesanya just fighting, I don’t know what that does,” Whittaker said. “I don’t know what the UFC is gonna make. I’ve never picked a fight. They just line them up and I beat them and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve never tip-toed my way to the title. . .

“I’m not worried. I don’t know what the UFC want to do with Gastelum and Adesanya now because obviously, I’ve heard a lot of things. How the UFC wants to go about lining up either Gastelum still or Adesanya or getting them to fight someone before, I think it certainly spices up the division. [Yoel] Romero and [Paulo] Costa have been calling out Adesanya. I know that there’s lifeblood in the division.”

That doesn’t seem to be good enought for either Gastelum or Adesanya though. Gastelum has obviously already declared himself champion and Adesanya recently argued that the UFC should strip Whittaker of his middleweight title and that he and Gastelum should fight for the belt. That is something Whittaker doesn’t agree with at all.

“It’s only been nine months since my last fight,” reasoned Whittaker. “I’ll be back in there before you know it. I’m trying to get my health up to date and get back to training and then I’ll fight soon enough. I’m not looking to take any long periods of time off. Obviously I’m itching for a fight.

“I’m gutted. I wanted to fight. I did all the work. I got sick after the weigh in! Can someone explain to me why I would go through the whole process of cutting weight and weighing in and then not fight? That is the worst outcome. It couldn’t have happened a day earlier? It is what is. I want to fight, I’m going to fight soon enough, and when I fight it will be glorious.”

And in the meantime? Whittaker says that if Adesanya or Gastelum are really that intent on fighting, they should fight the second best middleweight in the world, Yoel Romero. After all, Whittaker had to do so twice, so they should get to have fun with that.

“Definitely [Romero is the second best guy in the division],” said Whittaker. “If Adesanya or Gastelum want something to do, fight him. [Laughing] He’s fun. He’s a great fight.”


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