UFC president Dana White laughed off Kelvin Gastelum’s claim to the UFC middleweight world title at UFC 234 after champion Robert Whittaker was forced out of their title fight through illness.
Whittaker was hospitalized with a stomach hernia that required immediate surgery, forcing the UFC to scrap their scheduled world title main event between the Australian and Gastelum in Melbourne.
And during the event, Gastelum arrived carrying a UFC world championship belt and spoke with reporters backstage to declare himself as the new world champion.
“This is my belt, I earned this,” he said.
“I showed up, travelled thousands and thousands of miles away from home, made the weight… I’m the champion.
“Hopefully Rob heals up great. I wish him a speedy recovery.
“Then, after he heals up, maybe I can give him a crack at my title.”
But despite Gastelum’s claims to the belt, UFC president Dana White told reporters that because of the relatively short recovery time needed following Whittaker’s operation, the Australian would not be stripped of his world title.
“Hopefully this thing is only going to be four to six weeks, according to the doctors,” he said at the post-fight press conference.
“He’s in great shape and let’s see how long it takes him to recover from this, and we’ll make something as fast as we can.”