HE COULD HAVE DIED
Doctors’ chilling warning to Aussie
ROBERT Whittaker wanted to headline UFC 234 with both a hernia and twisted and collapsed bowel — and his withdrawal came only after doctors warned he could die from a body shot.
Scheduled to defend his UFC title in Melbourne yesterday, Whittaker was instead rushed to hospital at 3am for dual emergency surgeries.
UFC president Dana White last night revealed the champ had wanted to ignore the pain and fight American Kelvin Gastelum, and only relented after being told a punch to the stomach could kill him.
ROBERT Whittaker will not be stripped of his middleweight title — despite having now withdrawn from consecutive Australian title fights — thanks largely to his still wanting to compete minutes before two bouts of emergency surgery early yesterday morning.
Slated to headline UFC 234 in Melbourne yesterday, Whittaker was instead rushed to hospital at 3am suffering from a twisted and collapsed bowel, plus an internal hernia of the intestine.
UFC president Dana White said the 28-year-old had to be convinced by wife Sofia and father Jack not to take the Rod Laver Arena bout, especially after surgeons explained that a body shot from American challenger Kelvin Gastelum could kill him.
His manager Titus Day also said Whittaker was wanting to fight “about five minutes before going under the knife”.
Yet despite the champ’s attitude, and the seriousness of his injury, Gastelum suggested he should be awarded the title via forfeit — “I turned up to fight” — and, to make his point, sat cageside throughout the event with a UFC belt (borrowed from close friend and flyweight champ Henry Cejudo) slung over his shoulder.
Rising New Zealand star Israel Adesanya also used his Octagon interview after beating Brazilian great Anderson Silva to say: “I showed up to work, a lot of people didn’t.”
None of that washed with the UFC boss, however.
“Listen, Rob Whittaker got hurt,” he said. “His colon and intestine popped through his stomach, so I think we can give him a pass on not showing up to work.
“There are guys out there you can ridicule but Rob Whittaker isn’t one of them.
“This was super dangerous. It wasn’t some bullshit like some of the guys recently who have turned down fights.
“And his family, they were actually fighting with him because he didn’t want to go to the hospital.
“He was going to fight, push through and fight.
“Thank God he didn’t though. If he took a shot to his stomach during the fight he could have died. That’s what the doctors said.”
Given Whittaker’s recovery has been slated at between four to six weeks, White said the Australian would now be given time to heal up and then defend his belt against either Gastelum or Adesanya.
That fight will almost certainly not be held in Australia, which is unlikely to bother Whittaker, who a year ago was also forced out of UFC 221 in Perth with both infection and a serious case of chickenpox.
Elsewhere, the UFC president also praised Australian fight fans for packing out Rod Laver Arena with celebrities, including Hollywood megastars Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth.
Despite the Aussie’s late withdrawal, only a handful of fans took up the UFC’s offer to refund tickets.
The company posted a sellout crowd of more than 15,000, and a gate of $3.5 million.
Quizzed on what sort of financial hit the UFC had taken, White told reporters: “Were you at the fights tonight? Did you see an open seat?”
Robert Whittaker in hospital with wife Sofia after surgery yesterday.