The status of New Zealand-born fighter Robert Whittaker’s health appears to be of greater concern than originally thought judging by recent comments by UFC president Dana White.
Whittaker was scheduled to defend his middleweight title against Luke Rockhold in Perth in February but was forced to withdraw from the card due to what the promotion vaguely labelled "multiple injuries".
Speaking to media in Boston following UFC 220 on Sunday (NZT), White provided some clarification on the troubling situation ‘The Reaper’ is dealing with, namely the mistreatment of a staph infection that will likely have him on the shelf for a lengthy period of time.
“He had staph infection in his stomach,” White told TSN.
“From what I understand it wasn’t treated properly and started to eat away at parts of his organs. He’s in serious condition, so it’s going to be a minute before he’s back, I think.
“Hopefully it turns around quick, but that stuff is life threatening if not treated the right way.”
Staph is a highly-contagious skin condition which is is susceptible to evolving into a more dangerous strain when not addressed early. Conditions inside gyms (wrestling mats etc) provide the perfect breeding ground for it to spread, meaning it's prevelant among the world of combat sports.
The Auckland-born, Sydney-raised fighter will miss out on the opportunity to defend his crown for the first time after securing the title back in July of 2016 with a decision win over Cuban Yoel Romero.
Romero will now step in to replace him in the headline bout in Perth against American Rockhold, with the two set to contest an interim middleweight belt.
The first of its kind in Western Australia, the event will have a significant Kiwi presence with three New Zealand fighters in Mark Hunt, Luke Jumeau, and debutant Israel Adesanya already booked to feature on the undercard.