When news broke earlier this month that Robert Whittaker had been forced to withdraw from UFC 221 in Perth, Western Australia and his first scheduled middleweight title defence, against former champion Luke Rockhold, there was little information available regarding his condition.
The initial report from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto stated that the withdrawal was due to an undisclosed injury, but a subsequent UFC statement claimed that the New Zealand-born, Australia-bred fighter had actually suffered “several significant injuries.”
Very little details about Robert Whittaker’s injury situation at the moment. Everyone tight-lipped. UFC statement said he suffered “several significant injuries.” I was told it was more than one but unclear what and just how serious.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 14, 2018
Shortly after UFC 220 in Boston on Saturday, however, UFC president Dana White provided the first really detailed update on Whittaker. Rather than injury, it seems a very serious staph infection is the main issue being faced by the 27-year-old.
“He had staph infection in his stomach and from what I understand it wasn’t treated properly and started to eat away parts of his organs,” White told Aaron Bronsteter of TSN. “He is in serious condition. So, it’s going to be a minute before he is back, I think. Hopefully, it turns around quick but that stuff is life-threatening if not treated the right way.”
Whittaker, who is on an eight-fight winning run, hasn’t competed since last July when he claimed the interim middleweight title with a unanimous decision win over Yoel Romero at UFC 213. A knee injury he suffered in that fight kept him out of action for the remainder of 2017. Whittaker was only promoted from interim titlist to undisputed champion last month when Georges St-Pierre vacated the title due to his own health issues.
With Whittaker out, the UFC booked Rockhold against the aforementioned Romero at UFC 221 and created yet another interim title in the increasingly tumultuous middleweight division.