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Robert Whittaker out until 2019 with hand injury

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will be forced to sit out the rest of 2018 with a hand injury.

MMA: UFC 213-Romero vs Whittaker Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After his five-round war with Yoel Romero last month at UFC 225, it was unknown as to whether middleweight champion Robert Whittaker would be able to squeeze another fight in for 2018. Now, it’s more than clear, as the “Reaper” will be sidelined until at least 2019 with a hand injury.

Whittaker (20-4) broke his right hand in the first round of his fight with Romero last month, a fight in which the Australian got the nod by split decision. The bout was supposed to be Whittaker’s first scheduled title defense of his 185-pound belt, but since Romero missed weight, the fight was deemed a non-title bout.

“I haven’t even started the rehab process yet,” Whittaker told Ariel Helwani of ESPN about his broken hand. “Just more letting it heal first before I can implement that. They put a plate and some screws in (on the right hand). Realistically I’m looking at February next year.”

It was recently announced that Whittaker, 27, will coach the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter” alongside fellow middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum. The two will then fight after coaching TUF 28, but a date or venue has not yet been announced for the fight.

Despite being involved in a gritty, tough fight against Romero last month, Whittaker is confident that fight will not hinder his performance for his upcoming fight with Gastelum.

“I’m not worried that it’ll have any effect on my performance,” he says. “I haven’t even reached the peak of my potential. This hard fight is going to mold me and shape me as to how I approach fights from here on. I think everyone has to have their mettle tested in a tough fight. That was one of them for me.”

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