Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker ruled out for title defense fight

Jim Crute UFC 234

In a massive blow to the UFC 234 card, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will have to bow out of the main event due to a "severe abdominal injury requiring emergency surgery" suffered the night before his fight against Kevin Gastelum, the UFC announced Saturday.

UFC president Dana White confirmed today in a press conference in Melbourne that the stipulations are the same for Kiwi fighter Israel Adesanya, that he will have a shot at the title if he beats Anderson Silva on Sunday. "It wasn't a weight-cutting related issue or anything like that, it's just a very unfortunate hernia issue which may even require a procedure".

"He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a hernia", ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto revealed.

Silva, 43, broke into tears during the UFC 234 official weigh-in.

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This comes one year after Whittaker, in February 2018, was unable to defend his middleweight title against ex-champ Luke Rockhold in Australia due to injury.

This marks the second time that Whittaker has been slated to fight in Australia, but been unable to compete because of complications. The Brazilian will take on a fighter 14 years his junior in Adesanya, who is sixth in the UFC middleweight rankings and 15-0 in his MMA career.

Despite being elevated to the main event, Adesanya's bout will remain a three-round fight.

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