Australia's UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will not defend his belt on home soil on Sunday.
A hernia has forced Whittaker (20-4) out of his middleweight championship defence against Kelvin Gastelum (15-3, 1nc) in the main event of UFC 234 at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.
Australia’s Rob Whittaker is out.Credit:Joe Armao
The highly-anticipated No. 1 contender match between rising New Zealand sensation Israel Adesanya (15-0) and Brazilian legend Anderson Silva (34-8, 1nc) will now serve as the main event.
Plans for Whittaker's first official title defence were thrown into disarray late last night when the 29-year-old complained of pain in his abdomen before being diagnosed with a hernia in hospital.
It is understood a devastated Whittaker will undergo surgery on Sunday.
It marks the second time Whittaker has been forced to withdraw from a scheduled title fight down under, after a range of injuries kept him from fighting Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 in Perth last year.
Whittaker's withdrawal has thrown a spanner in the works for UFC president Dana White, who was banking on the winners of the main and co-main events to square off later this year.
Those plans will now be delayed, given Gastelum is next in line for a title shot before the winner of the Adesanya-Silva showdown.
The UFC's hopes of selling out ANZ Stadium for a Trans-Tasman showdown between Whittaker and Adesanya may have to wait just a little bit longer.
More to come.
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