MELBOURNE, Feb 10 : Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight world Champion Robert Whittaker was taken to hospital for emergency surgery just hours before his scheduled title fight with American contender Kelvin Gastelum in Melbourne on Sunday.
Despite weighing in for the 185 bout with no problems on Saturday, it was reported that later that night around 22:00 (AEST), Whittaker began vomiting and experiencing severe abdominal pain.
At approximately 02:00 (AEST) on Sunday morning scans at the hospital revealed the fighter would need to undertake emergency surgery for a hernia.
With over 15,000 fans expected to attend the mixed martial arts event at Rod Laver Arena, the UFC said in a statement on Sunday "due to change in the main event, customers may request a full refund of their purchased tickets at the point of sale."
"The new main event, which airs live on Pay-Per-View, will be a three-round middleweight bout between Anderson Silva and Israel Adesanya," the statement said.
"Elevated to the co-main is the lightweight match-up between Albuquerque action hero Lando Vannata and surging Brazilian Marcos Mariano."
Now the second time that Whittaker has been forced to pull out of a title bout on home soil after also missing last year's clash in Perth against Yoel Romero, his scheduled opponent took to social media to offer his sympathy.
"With much sorrow I write that my fight for the middleweight title is off," Gastelum tweeted.
"I'm sorry to everyone that was expecting this great fight, family , friends and followers from around the world."
"I wish @robwhittakermma a speedy recovery champ! Get well soon!" (Xinhua)