It didn’t take long for Robert Whittaker to get a new opponent for his UFC Fight Night headlining bout on April 17. Shortly after it was revealed that Paulo Costa stepped out, Kelvin Gastelum stepped in. The news was initially reported by Peleando podcast host Carlos Contreras Legaspi.
Whittaker was initially slated to face Costa in the April 17 main event, but the Brazilian withdrew after continuing to struggle with his COVID-19 recovery, including a recent bout of the flu.
Instead of rescheduling the bout for a later date, UFC officials inked Gastelum to keep the fight on schedule.
The event is currently approved to take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, but hasn’t been given an official location as of yet. The UFC is taking the April 24 UFC 261 pay-per-view to Jacksonville, Fla., where they will be allowed to fill the 15,000-seat VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena to capacity. It’s possible that the company might be looking to make a similar move with the April 17 fight card.
The Robert Whittaker fight is a huge opportunity for Kelvin Gastelum
Having lost three consecutive bouts prior to righting the ship against Ian Heinisch at UFC 258 in February, Gastelum had bee sitting on the sidelines, trying to figure out his next move. When the opportunity to fight the former UFC middleweight champion, Gastelum jumped at the chance to step in the Octagon with Whittaker.
Currently ranked no. 1 in the middleweight division, Whittaker likely would have gotten a shot at champion Israel Adesanya with a win over the no. 2 ranked Costa.
Adesanya took the belt from Whittaker at UFC 243 in October of 2019. Whittaker has since defeated Darren Till and Jared Cannonier.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Gastelum to propel his name back into the thick of title talks, but could still be Whittaker’s launching pad into a second fight with Adesanya and a chance to regain the UFC middleweight championship.
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