UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker was supposed to defend the gold against Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC 234, but Whittaker would be forced to withdraw from the event due to a severe abdominal issue that required surgery.
The champion, whom already issued one statement on the withdraw through his management team, would issue another statement and a video through Instagram:
Hey guys ! Still kicking. I'm sorry to all my friends, fans and family for not being able to get in there Sunday. Apparently if you get emergency surgeries you can't be cleared to fight. Thanks for the overwhelming support from all my fans I am so blessed to know you guys have my back. A big thanks to my team mates @fabricioitte @alexprates07 @standstrongboxingcoachjustin @justinlang_ep @titusday77 and all the others from behind the scenes you guys were there from start to finish worrying and prioritizing my health above all. Lastly to @danawhite and @ufc for the immediate help and support throughout the process of testing and the emergency surgeries. I am blessed I found out when I did and avoided life long consequences. I'll be back better than ever.
Here is a transcript of what Whittaker said in the video (via MMA Junkie):
“Let me say that I’m sorry to all my friends and family and fans that came out to watch me perform. But unfortunately I couldn’t be there. I tried my best to try and swing it. I was fighting the doctors all the way up 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.”
“I’m sorry to Gastelum cause he came out here, prepped, and came a long way and I couldn’t give him a show.”
“You guys know what it takes to keep me from the octagon. So for you guys to be behind me and supporting me and sending me your love like that, it means a lot to me. It really does. And it makes it easier for me to try even harder next time, to get in there and to put my soul on bare and put on a good show for you guys.”
“I’ll be back better than ever. This is one obstacle that I’ve jumped. It’s not going to keep me down forever. I’m going to be back — better than ever.”
UFC President Dana White did say it would take at least four weeks for the champion to recover from surgery, but an exact time table should be known as the fighter heals up.