«They think he’s had this problem and it’s been going in and out. It’s one of those situations, had it popped up during the fight it could have been fatal for him so this is really serious.
«Hopefully they popped it back in and sewed it up and if that’s the case, he’ll be four weeks [out of action] but this was a freak, freak injury less than one per cent.
«Our doctor here at the UFC, who has been doing this for 30 years, has never seen it ever in his career and not in a young person. It’s usually in much older people.»
According to ESPN, the 28-year-old woke up in the middle of the night experiencing pain in his abdomen and it was later confirmed that he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a hernia which required emergency surgery.
Whittaker, who is Australia’s first and only UFC champion, also pulled out of UFC 221 in Perth last year due to a staph infection in his stomach. He was supposed to defend his title at that event, too.
Whittaker’s manager Titus Day said the champion first reported some issues around 6pm on Saturday.
«Rob said he was a bit bloated and a little bit tired which is not uncommon when you are going through the process they are going through, reloading and putting some food back in your body,» Day said.
«Then about 10 o’clock we got a call from [Whittaker’s wife] Sofia saying he’s got some bad stomach cramps and he’s in quite a lot of pain and can’t sleep and can’t go to the bathroom.
«We said we’ll call the UFC doctors and shortly after that he started vomiting so everyone was alerted and was at his room and it was monitored from there until it got to the stage at about three in the morning where he was taken to hospital.
«Rob is absolutely shattered for everyone else.
«When I walked in, the first thing he said to me was ‘man I’m so sorry’.
«I was like ‘what are you talking about?’
«He’s like ‘I’m so sorry for this I’ve let people down’.
«Thats just Rob thinking of everyone else not himself.
«This was really his moment, the media and the hype that was building around. him was taking him to a whole other level and I think he would have done very well in this fight.
«This is Rob’s huge moment special moment in life, it’s just been shattered, so there will be a lot of pieces to be picked up. and we’ll do it.»
Gastelum tweeted with «much sorrow» that the fight was off, but showed sympathy for Whittaker’s plight.
«I wish [Rob] a speedy recovery champ! Get well soon!»
While the highly-anticipated bout between Whittaker and Gastelum in Melbourne was scrapped, the co-main event between New Zealand excitement machine Israel Adesanya and Brazil’s living legend Anderson Silva took centre stage instead.
The hype surrounding the Adesanya-Silva fight has been arguably just as big as the Whittaker-Gastelum showdown, if not bigger.
Extra weight was added to the Adesanya-Silva fight when UFC president Dana White announced on Friday that it would be for the No.1 middleweight contender spot.
The new co-main was the lightweight matchup between Lando Vannata and Marcos Mariano.
Due to change in the main event, customers were able to request a full refund of their purchased tickets at the point of sale.
Ronny Lerner is a Sports reporter for The Age.