Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker ruled out for title defense fight

Anderson-Silva-Israel-Adesanya

Whittaker was due to take on Gastelum in an eagerly-awaited match-up at the top of the bill on home soil at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday local time.

As a result, the co-main between Brazilian great Anderson Silva and New Zealand phenom Israel Adesanya will now become the headline event.

Because his next fight against Yoel Romero was a non-title bout after Romero missed weight, Whittaker still has yet to officially defend his belt a year into his status as middleweight champ.

A lightweight clash between Lando Vannata and Marcos Rosa Mariano will now move to the main card.

But plans for Whittaker's first official title defence were thrown into disarray late on Saturday night when the 29-year-old complained of pain in his abdomen before being diagnosed with a hernia in hospital.

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Per Okamoto, the hernia was not related to Whittaker's weight cut.

He later said Whittaker would be undergoing surgery on Sunday for the problem.

Gastelum's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, appeared on ESPN Radio following the news of Whittaker's withdrawal and said he believes his client will be compensated by the UFC brass.

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 2018.

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