UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker had been looking forward to making the first defense of his belt on his home turf, but now the Aussie is fighting a much more serious fight.
According to UFC president Dana White, via an interview with TSN, Whittaker is battling a staph infection that wasn’t treated properly, which could be life threatening.
“He had staph infection in his stomach,” White said. “From what I understand, it wasn’t treated properly and started to eat away at parts of his organs. He’s in serious condition, so it’s going to be a minute before he’s back, I think. Hopefully it turns around quick, but that stuff is life threatening if not treated the right way.”
Whittaker had been slated to defend his belt against former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 on Feb. 11 in Perth, Australia. He was abruptly pulled from the fight card in early January, citing undisclosed reasons.
We now know that the undisclosed reason was a staph infection and that it has become a very serious situation.
With Whittaker’s return currently impossible to predict, UFC officials moved swiftly to match Rockhold with another top middleweight contender in Yoel Romero. Rockhold and Romero will battle for the interim UFC middleweight championship at UFC 221, keeping the division moving forward with the interim champion expected to face Whittaker when he is able to return.