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Robert Whittaker has apologised to Kelvin Gastelum and to his fans after he was forced to withdraw from his title defence at UFC 234.
Whittaker had been due to defend his middleweight crown at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, but he was forced to pull out of the event just hours before after suffering from severe abdominal cramps.
He was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for a hernia issue with UFC president Dana White admitting that they situation could have turned fatal had he fought Gastelum.
Speaking in a video statement from hospital, Whittaker has vowed to return better than ever, although he was unable to give an indication as to when he will be back in the octagon.
“Let me say that I’m sorry to all my friends and family and fans that came out to watch me perform. But unfortunately I couldn’t be there. I tried my best to try and swing it. I was fighting the doctors all the way up until they said, ‘You have to get surgery or you’re going to lose part of your bowel.’ Or it could be potentially fatal. I had to look at my health first — I’m sorry, guys," Whittaker said.
“I’m sorry to Gastelum cause he came out here, prepped, and came a long way and I couldn’t give him a show.
“You guys know what it takes to keep me from the octagon. So for you guys to be behind me and supporting me and sending me your love like that, it means a lot to me. It really does. And it makes it easier for me to try even harder next time, to get in there and to put my soul on bare and put on a good show for you guys.
“I’ll be back better than ever. This is one obstacle that I’ve jumped. It’s not going to keep me down forever. I’m going to be back — better than ever.”
UFC 235 featuring the welterweight title bout between Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman on Saturday, March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will be live on BT Sport on the eir sport pack. Subscribe here
Getty Images/Dylan Buell