Following two grueling wars with Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker will defend his UFC middleweight championship against Kelvin Gastelum after the two coach The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28.
Gastelum recently discussed Whittaker’s current state during a media scrum (via MMA Fighting), noting that there’s a good chance the champion may not be the same after two back-and-forth brawls with one of MMA’s heaviest hitters:
“I don’t know if he’s going to be the same fighter after these fights. These wars that he’s been in, it takes a toll on the body, so we’ll see how he comes out after this hand surgery.”
Although “Bobby Knuckles” emerged victorious in both five-round fights, there’s no denying the damage he took in both fights, as he was sidelined for 11 months due to knee surgery after the first bout and will now get hand surgery before he returns to meet Gastelum.
We’ve seen fighters engage in brutal battles where, despite perhaps emerging victorious, they aren’t quite the same afterward. Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit’s respective declines following their classic battle at UFC 196 comes to mind, as does Dan Henderson’s fall after his five-round classic with Shogun at UFC 139.
But Whittaker has far fewer miles on his tires compared to those longtime vets, so even though he’s required surgeries after his two bouts with Romero, he could also bounce back more than the older fighters who fell following similar contests.
What do you think? Will Whittaker bounce back strong to take out a surging young contender in Gastelum, or will he show the wear of the wars?