Robert Whittaker puts his undisputed middleweight belt on the line for the first time on Saturday night when he meets Kelvin Gastelum in the main event at UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia.
Whittaker is coming off successive back-to-back five-round wars against one of the most powerful men in the division in Yoel Romero. The Aussie prevailed in both fights and now officially defends the title for the first time as Romero missed weight in their second fight at UFC 225.
“The Reaper” told MMA Fighting that the fact he stood toe-to-toe with the “monster” Romero and won both fights should send a warning to all his future opponents including Gastelum (via BJPenn.com):
“I feel they should be worried but for other reasons,” Whittaker said. “I feel that Yoel gave me his best in 10 rounds and couldn’t put me away. I went 10 rounds with a monster, no one else has. No, [Kelvin Gastelum’s] definitely not a step-down.
“I respect his abilities,” Whittaker added. “He’s a dangerous fighter. He’s gonna come in there hungry, with nothing to lose. [That’s] one of the most dangerous combinations. So yeah, I’m giving him the respect he deserves.
“It is refreshing to have a different opponent other than Yoel but ya know, here we are.”
UFC 234 takes place Saturday, Feb. 9 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The co-main event features Anderson Silva returning to the Octagon for the first time since February 2017, when he faces the rising superstar Israel Adesanya in a much anticipated middleweight bout, with the winner confirmed to fight for the belt later in the year.