Robert Whittaker was trying to fight Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 — even with a severe hernia.
The UFC middleweight champion said Sunday night in a video statement posted to his Instagram page that he was trying to convince doctors to let him defend his title in Melbourne, Australia, right up until the point that they told him he needed emergency surgery. Or else.
“Let me say that I’m sorry to all my friends and family and fans that came out to watch me perform,” Whittaker said. “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’ve gotta get surgery or you’re gonna lose part of your bowel.’ Or it could be potentially fatal. I had to look at my health first — I’m sorry, guys.”
Whittaker, 28, said he was diagnosed with a collapsed bowel and internal hernia just hours before the UFC 234 was set to begin at Rod Laver Arena. He said that he couldn’t drink water or eat after weighing in the day prior to the card. Whittaker said he was throwing up everything that he was ingesting in an attempt to rehydrate.
“The Reaper” thanked his coaching staff, management, family and friends for telling him he needed to go to the hospital and supporting him throughout this awful time. Whittaker said he’ll still need to remain in the hospital for a few more days. He also apologized to Gastelum, who he knows trained hard and came a long way to Australia for the fight.
“You guys know what it takes to keep me from the Octagon,” Whittaker said of his fans. “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.”
Whittaker thanked UFC president Dana White and the UFC’s medical team for giving him what he said was the best care possible, making sure he got everything done quickly. Whittaker was able to have surgery Sunday local time, the same day as UFC 234.
To close, the 185-pound champ made sure to say that he plans on making a full recovery and excelling once again in the cage.
“I’ll be back better than ever,” Whittaker said. “This is one obstacle that I’ve jumped. It’s not gonna keep me down forever. I’m gonna be back — better than ever.”