The middleweight division is one of the most crowded in the UFC, and that status was only cemented by the results of UFC 234, which saw Israel Adesanya remain undefeated and move ever closer to fighting for a title.
The fight had a strange set of circumstances around it, as it was only moved to the main event after the previously scheduled one, Robert Whittaker versus Kelvin Gastelum, was canceled on short notice because of Whittaker picking up a hernia close to the date of the fight.
Whittaker didn’t face Gastelum, and Adesanya picked up his fifth UFC win by beating the legendary Anderson Silva. The result would have likely matched up Adesanya with the winner of the main event, but since that main event at UFC 234 never happened, the top of the division is even more crowded. It remains to be seen whether or not the UFC will reschedule Gastelum’s title shot with Whittaker, or if Whittaker will simply be stripped of the belt for failing to defend it within a reasonable timeframe.
Adesanya, who arguably earned a title shot by defeating Silva, had something to say about the situation while speaking to MMA Junkie Radio.
“Honestly, you know when Dominick Cruz kept hurting himself and got surgery after surgery after surgery? The UFC stripped him, and this is another one of those. This isn’t the first time this has happened or second time with Robert. This is ongoing. He’s hurt, he’s out for much longer and he’s hurt again, then has a fight and is out for this long. You can’t hold up the whole division.”
The UFC can be quick to take away belts, at times. Colby Covington was notably stripped of the interim welterweight title less than six months after winning it, after the UFC decided to give Darren Till a shot at the title rather than waiting for Covington to get healthy. Could the UFC make a similar move and take a belt away to give a young star a chance to fight for the title? Adesanya thinks they should do it, and let Whittaker fight to win the belt back later.
“My idea is strip him, take the belt off him, and me and Kelvin fight for the real belt. Then when he’s all healed up and 100 percent, he can come see me and challenge for the belt… I understand in his position, but he’s going to be the No. 1 no matter happens in the Costa vs. Romero fight, no matter what happens with Jacare or Rockhold or whoever. Robert Whittaker will be the No. 1 contender. He can come see me when he’s healthy.”
While it seems far off right now, a fight between Adesanya and Whittaker would certainly be something to see. According to Adesanya, making the fight won’t be a problem if Whittaker is confident.
“If you’re that confident you can beat me, you’re that confident you can get it back, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
The UFC hasn’t announced its plans for handling the situation at middleweight, so it’s not out of the question that Whittaker will have his title stripped. But since it hasn’t happened yet, it’s possible that the UFC has already decided not to. Whether or not that’s a good thing depends entirely on your views about just when a title should be taken away.
Sports writer and photographer in Buffalo, originally from Jersey. Fan first.