Despite not being able to defend his title next weekend at UFC 221, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker is lucky to still have a mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
The 27-year-old Australian was scheduled to fight Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 but was forced out of the pay-per-view (PPV) event when a staph infection spread to his stomach. As a result, Rockhold will take on Yoel Romero for the interim UFC middleweight title.
While Whittaker is able to recover from an infection that could have ended much worse than it did, he revealed earlier this week that the staph infection wasn’t the only issue he was battling.
“Everyone knows I like to fight injured,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “Half the fights I’ve taken I’ve always been injured. Just before I got ill, I pulled my hamstring. We could work around it and we were doing things to compensate for it, we were working around it, but then I got a really bad infection and the infection and the antibiotics just took it out of me. I was really struggling to recover and then right at the end of the infection, I got the chickenpox [laughs]. That’s why I’ve got the scars all over my face. It was an absolute mess. If anyone’s had it, it’s just horrible [laughs].”
Whittaker may like to “fight injured,” but he’s going to have to take some time to build himself back up after the past month. After all, the UFC’s middleweight division is littered with elite contenders dying to gets their hands on the title, making “Bobby Knuckles” the biggest divisional target in 2018.
”I’m just focused on recovering,” Whittaker said. “I’m gonna let Yoel and Rockhold punch it out a bit, but things are good and I’m looking for a big return mid-year. So let’s see what happens.”
If Whittaker can stay healthy he’ll have the opportunity to prove that he is in fact the future of the 185-pound class. The rising UFC superstar has gone 7-0 since his middleweight debut in 2014, including notable wins over Ronaldo Souza, Derek Brunson, and the aforementioned Yoel Romero.