Robert Whittaker has broken his silence from his hospital bed after he was forced to pull out of his title fight at UFC 234 with a serious medical condition that could have proved fatal if he stepped in the Octagon.
The Aussie fighter was supposed to defend his middleweight strap against Kelvin Gastelum in Melbourne but had to withdraw on Sunday morning when his health deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital.
Whittaker was diagnosed with an internal hernia and collapsed bowel that will keep him out of action for more than a month. UFC president Dana White said it was so serious the 28-year-old would have put his life in jeopardy had his fight gone ahead.
Posting several video messages from hospital, Whittaker apologised for not being able to face Gastelum and thanked his family and friends for their support.
“I had to get emergency surgery on Sunday because I had a collapsed bowel and an internal hernia causing me all sorts of problems,” Whittaker said.
“I’m sorry to all my friends and family and fans who came out to watch me perform but unfortunately I couldn’t be there. I tried my best to try and swing it and I was fighting the doctors the whole way until they said you have to get surgery or you’re going to lose part of your bowel or it could be potentially fatal.
“I had to look at my health first. I’m sorry guys.”
Whittaker thanked his team for encouraging him to go to hospital when he couldn’t keep any water down during his rehydration phase the night before the fight and also praised the UFC for making his wellbeing its top priority.
“I’d also like to say a big thanks to Dana White and the UFC medical team because they did everything in their power to make sure I got the tests I needed, that I had everything done, they spared no expense,” he said.
“They found out I needed emergency surgery and they got me in surgery straight away. I was under the knife the very same day I got the tests done so thankyou to you guys as well.
“I’ll be back better than ever. It’s not going to keep me down forever.”
Whittaker also thanked his fans for their support, saying nothing could keep him from the Octagon unless it was serious.
White said Whittaker’s recovery could take between 4-6 weeks, but there’s a chance it could be even longer than that. Gastelum declared himself the new UFC middleweight champion after Whittaker’s withdrawal but White was reluctant to discuss stripping “Bobby Knuckles” of his piece of UFC gold, saying he would give the 28-year-old time to recover before making a decision on the next move in the division.
“He’s going to be better in four-to-six weeks,” White said.
“When we have a guy who blows an ACL or takes some time off, we look at how long those guys are going to be out for and make a decision.
“Rob’s looking like four-to-six weeks, so we’ll go from there.
“It’s never fun to strip someone of the title, they worked hard to get there, so it’s never fun.”
The Sydney-based star has experienced a horror run of injuries and illness throughout his career, including a gruesome abscess infection which forced him to pull out of UFC 221 in Perth last year.