Robert Whittaker announced Monday that following a hand injury suffered in his split-decision victory over Yoel Romero at UFC 225, he will not be able to have his next defense, announced to be against Kelvin Gastelum, until sometime in 2019. Whittaker stated February would be the ideal month for his return following the surgery:
“I haven’t even started the rehab process yet,” the champion told Ariel Helwani. “Just more letting it heal first before I can implement that. They put a plate and some screws in (on the right hand). Realistically I’m looking at February next year.”
When Whittaker does make his return, he will do so looking to earn his 10th straight victory. The opponent has already been officially announced by the UFC, as he and Kelvin Gastelum will coach the 28th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Gastelum believes that when the two square off, he will not see the same Robert Whittaker that fans have grown accustomed to, as he stated that Whittaker may never be the same again following the battles he has had with Yoel Romero. The champion, however, is unconcerned about his future performances:
“I’m not worried that it’ll have any effect on my performance,” Whittaker said. “I haven’t even reached the peak of my potential. This hard fight is going to mold me and shape me as to how I approach fights from here on. I think everyone has to have their mettle tested in a tough fight. That was one of them for me.”
“Bobby Knuckles” came through this test with his status as middleweight champion in tact. Many people believe his scrap with Romero was a draw and some, including a judge, gave the nod to “The Soldier of God.” But the only opinions that matter are the two judges who thought the champion did enough to win in the FOTY contender last month. Always the crowd pleasure, Whittaker’s hand cannot heal soon enough so that he can put on yet another show for the UFC faithful.
Do you believe Robert Whittaker will be the same when he returns in 2019?