Despite being champion for 20 months with the UFC, Robert Whittaker has yet to defend his belt and has pulled out of two title fights, which should lead to consideration for stripping the belt from Whittaker.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in this spot again where a main event has been canceled as ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported that UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has been removed from UFC 234 just hours before the event.
Breaking: Robert Whittaker is out of the UFC 234 main event against Kelvin Gastelum due to a hernia in his abdomen, UFC president Dana White told Brett Okamoto. pic.twitter.com/j4klssAWpM
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) February 9, 2019
Whittaker, who was set to fight in front of his home country of Australia, pulled out due to a hernia in his abdomen, per Okamoto.
Whittaker pulled out of last year’s main event in Australia when he was set to defend his title for the first time against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221. Whittaker was then scheduled to defend his belt against Yoel Romero at UFC 225, which was a rematch from 11 months prior for the interim middleweight belt at UFC 213.
In case you forget, let us give you a timeline of the craziness that the UFC middleweight title, and interim title, has gone through.
- October 2016: Michael Bisping, now retired, defended his belt against Dan Henderson.
- July 2017: After a last-second new main event, Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero for the interim title due to Bisping’s inactivity and while waiting for a bigger fight in Georges St-Pierre.
- November 2017: Bisping lost the title to GSP.
- December of 2017: GSP was stripped of the belt after suffering from ulcerative colitis. Whittaker was named the undisputed champion.
- February 2018: After Whittaker pulled out due to an injury, Romero was set to fight Luke Rockhold for the interim title. However, Romero missed weight and only Rockhold was eligible to win the interim title if he won the match. Romero won and did not get a belt.
- June 2018: Romero and Whittaker were supposed to have a rematch, this time for an undisputed title. But Romero missed weight again and it was a non-title match.
- February 2019: Whittaker was expected to defend his belt for the first time against Kelvin Gastelum, but Whittaker pulled out.
Ever since an interim middleweight title was created, the UFC has seen plenty of unfortunate outcomes involving title matches being canceled at middleweight. In fairness, the middleweight division is not the only one to experience this, as the promotion has seen a plethora of cancellations with main and co-main events over the past couple of years.
UFC President Dana White should consider stripping Robert Whittaker if he were to pull out again. Whittaker has been a champion for 20 months and has yet to officially defend the belt. Although Romero missing weight was not Whittaker’s fault, Whittaker is responsible for pulling out of UFC 221 and UFC 234, in both of which he was heavily promoted with both events happening in Australia.
The ESPN era in 2019 has treated the UFC well, until now. But these incidents have happened prior to moving to ESPN. As president of the promotion, White must find a solution to help decrease the number of cancellations, or permanently commit to having back-up fighters for headlining bouts.