But White simply wouldn’t have any of that.
«His colon and his intestines had popped out. They think he’s had it for a while and it’s been popping in and out. The scary thing is if he took a shot to the stomach, he could have died,» White said.
«He could have ruptured a colon and it becomes septic, and that’s not good. It’s great the way this worked out, to find out this kid had this problem and was unhealthy, and we were able to get it fixed.
«The guy got hurt, he’s a human being. His colon and his intestine popped through his stomach, I think we can give him a pass on not showing up to work.
«It’s super dangerous, this is something legit, something real. This isn’t some bullshit like some of the guys recently who have turned down fights. This is as real as you can get.
«He was actually going to push through it and fight, and thank god he didn’t. There’s guys out there you can ridicule, Rob Whittaker isn’t one of them.»
Plans for Whittaker’s first official title defence were thrown into disarray when the 29-year-old complained of pain in his abdomen before being diagnosed with a hernia in hospital after being admitted at 3am on Sunday morning.
Whittaker’s team says as late as five minutes before surgery he was pleading to go through with the fight having already had a title defence at home snatched away last year.
Whittaker’s withdrawal has thrown a spanner in the works for UFC president Dana White, who was banking on the winners of the main and co-main events to square off later this year.
Those plans will now be delayed, given Gastelum is next in line for a title shot before Adesanya. But the American says he isn’t next in line, the line goes through him now.
The 27-year-old had one of the UFC’s new championships over his shoulder — it was in fact flyweight champion Henry Cejudo’s, not one reserved for the middleweight title fight winner.
It didn’t stop him from proclaiming «I am the champion».
«This is my belt,» Gastelum said.
«I earned this. I showed up, travelled thousands and thousands of miles from home, made the weight. In my world, the wrestling world, if the guy shows up and makes the weight, for some reason cancels the bout, the guy forfeits the match — I win.
«Hopefully Rob heals up great, I wish him a speedy recovery and when he heals up maybe he can get a crack at my title.»
Gastelum called for the UFC and White to cover the costs of his preparation, admitting they hadn’t yet talked numbers but «I spent a lot of money on this camp so I expect to be fully reimbursed».
«This was the hardest camp of my life, so for them to rip this opportunity from me, I ain’t going to have it,» Gastelum said.
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times