UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will not be returning to the octagon any time soon, unfortunately.
Forget any hope of Robert Whittaker facing Kelvin Gastelum in close proximity to The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale. Though the two middleweights serve as coaches on the upcoming (and potentially final) season of the show, it appears 185lb champ isn’t expecting to return this year. Per an appearance on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, Whittaker believes he’s out until sometime in 2019.
“I haven’t even started the rehab process yet,” Whittaker said of his recent hand injury on the show. “Just more letting it heal first before I can implement that.” Noting that doctors put a plate and screws in his hand, the middleweight king added that “realistically I’m looking at February next year.”
Ouch. That’s bad news for Kelvin Gastelum (15–3 (1) ), who last fought in May at UFC 224, earning a split decision over Jacare Souza. He’ll now be sitting quite some time waiting for that title shot, though at least the filming of TUF 28 should keep him busy a bit. It’s not great news for Whittaker (20-4) either. The champ has struggled to maintain his health since breaking into the top of the division.
The news removes Whittaker from the running for UFC 231 and UFC 232, both of which were candidates to be headlined by the middleweight title fight. There’s no UFC 231 main event set just yet, but the show was recently announced for Toronto on December 8 by the UFC. As for UFC 232, it serves as the promotion’s annual New Year’s show.