Just hours before his supposed title defense, Robert Whittaker had to undergo emergency surgery because of a collapsed bowel and internal hernia that scrapped him from UFC 234. It’s still unclear how long he will be out of commission, but with the recent trends, the natural question was if an interim championship could be in play soon.
Israel Adesanya, who won what was supposedly a title eliminator, was asked about this potential interim belt. He went further and talk about Whittaker possibly being stripped altogether.
“Why interim?” Adesanya told Luke Thomas. “This is not the first time this has happened. It’s not his control, like I said it’s in the control of player one, but... I don’t know what his training is like. I look after myself.
“I don’t know what causes hernias,” he continued. “I don’t know what causes it exactly, but I look after myself. I show up. This is not the first time he had to pull out due to injury or something like that.
“Dominick Cruz, eventually he got stripped. I think Rob will just get stripped. When he gets healthy, he can be a number one contender. So me and Kelvin fight for the real belt. F—k the interim. So strip Rob, we fight for the real belt, when he’s healthy he can come see me.”
When saying it was “not the first time,” Adesanya was likely alluding to when Whittaker pulled out of UFC 221 due to a serious case of staph infection. Whittaker also spent a few months recovering from a knee injury in 2017, but that was sustained during his title win at UFC 213.
Despite these health issues, Whittaker still fought just 8 months ago, making an interim title — let alone stripping his actual belt — a bit pointless. That being said, with the way the UFC has handled their titles, nothing would be surprising at this point.