Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker ruled out for title defense fight

Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker ruled out for title defense fight

Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker ruled out for title defense fight

MELBOURNE, Australia - An abdominal hernia has forced UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker out of his highly anticipated title defense against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234, just hours before doors were scheduled to open at Rod Laver Arena.

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

With Whittaker out, Anderson Silva's long-awaited return to the octagon against rising star Israel Adesanya has been elevated to the UFC 234 main event.

ESPN's Brett Okamoto reported the news, citing UFC chief Dana White. Whittaker is now riding a nine-fight winning streak while being undefeated at middleweight.

Both fighters started their careers at welterweight before later moving up a weight class.

This is the second time in 12 months that Whittaker has had to withdraw from a title defence on home soil, after injury forced him out of the card at ufc 221 in Perth last February. The bout will determine the next contender to the title, likely after Whittaker defends vs. Gastelum.

Elevated to the co-main is the lightweight matchup between Albuquerque action hero Lando Vannata and surging Brazilian Marcos Mariano.

Silva, who is officially 1-4-1 in his last six fights, is returning from a two-year hiatus from fighting due to failed drug tests. Adesanya, who fights out of New Zealand, is one of the UFC's most promising prospects, taking on an all-time great in Silva.

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