(Courtesy of MMAFightingonSBN)
The UFC 234 fight card came crashing to the ground on Saturday when middleweight champion Robert Whittaker pulled out of his headlining bout with Kelvin Gastelum because of an abdominal hernia.
While Gastelum was rather gracious in an Instagram post shortly after the news broke, he later met for an interview with reporters and declared himself the rightful UFC middleweight champion.
“With much sorrow, I write that my fight for the middleweight title is off. I’m sorry to everyone that was expecting this great fight, family, friends and followers from around the world,” wrote Gastelum.
“God has a reason for doing things and I firmly believe his plans are much bigger and better than I can even imagine.
I’m so torn about this situation. A lifetime of pursuit to be able to reach this level and I hope none of these efforts will go in vain.”
When he met with reporters, Gastelum had the new UFC belt draped over his shoulder. He avoided answering any direct questions about who gave him the belt or being officially recognized as champion.
“This is my belt,” Gastelum said. “I earned this. I showed up, traveled thousands and thousands of miles from home, made the weight. In my world, the wrestling world, if the guy shows up and makes the weight, for some reason cancels the bout, the guy forfeits the match. I win. I am the champion.”
UFC officials confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that Gastelum was parading the belt around under his own accord. He is not officially recognized as the UFC champion.