Robert Whittaker ruled out of UFC 234 title defence

Robert Whittaker ruled out of UFC 234 title defence

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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