Robert Whittaker’s next title defense likely won’t come until early next year.
The UFC middleweight champion told ESPN's Ariel Helwani that the hand injury suffered in his split-decision victory over Yoel Romero at UFC 225 will keep him out until February at the earliest. Whittaker broke his right hand in the opening round of the June 9 bout and also revealed that he suffered ligament damage in his left hand.
Whittaker recently underwent surgery and will need the rest of 2018 to recover.
"I haven't even started the rehab process yet," Whittaker said. "Just more letting it heal first before I can implement that. They put a plate and some screws in. Realistically I'm looking at February next year.”
Whittaker will coach opposite Kelvin Gastelum on “The Ultimate Fighter 28,” before defending his title against Gastelum at an as yet-to-be determined date. The 27-year-old has won nine consecutive fights and doesn’t expect his latest injury to hinder him down the road.
"I'm not worried that it'll have any effect on my performance," Whittaker said. "I haven't even reached the peak of my potential. This hard fight is going to mold me and shape me as to how I approach fights from here on. I think everyone has to have their mettle tested in a tough fight. That was one of them for me.”