Silver lining to ‘absolute nightmare’
UFC: Australia's own UFC champion Robert Whittaker has endured a nightmare first month of 2018 after being forced to bail out of UFC 221 in Perth with a myriad of gruesome illnesses.
The 27-year-old, who shot into the public's eye following his huge defeat over Cuban Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title at UFC 213, suffered from a staph infection which spread to his stomach.
But, according to the man himself, a little infection wasn't going to stop him fighting US star Luke Rockhold in front of a home crowd on February 11.
"I think a lot of the general populous know I have no qualms with going into a fight injured. I've gone into many fights injured. I went into the Yoel Romero fight with a torn MCL and I've been in multiple fights with broken hands," the interim champ told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour Tuesday.
"During my prep in my camp I blew my hamstring out but we just worked around it. Then I got an abscess infection, and that absolutely knocked me out of the park. I was on antibiotics for that for weeks and it was just getting out of hand."
Just as it looked like Whittaker's health couldn't take another hit, the 19-4 UFC middleweight contracted chickenpox.
"It was the sickest I've been in my entire life. But if they were to say 'are you right to fight Luke Rockhold tomorrow?' I'd have said 'yeah all right'," he said, admitting his defiance put a scare through his camp as his health deteriorated.
"My coaching staff and my family all sat me down, almost like an intervention and said 'Rob, there is zero chance you're going to be able to fight and even if you do get in there, it's so unsafe for you go out there with no prep and your body as weak as it is'," he said.
The news was then made public: Australia's champion wasn't going to fight in Perth. Rival Yoel Romero was instead brought to the table to take on Rockhold.
"It was absolutely gut-wrenching," Whittaker said. "It was a UFC event in Perth, it was a pay-per-view event and this is the country I'm representing. For me to not be able to defend my title here in Australia is gutting.
"My skin was on fire, I lost a week in a feverish haze, and I had an abscess on my bum. (But) I've turned a corner. I've dropped off the antibiotics - I'm good now, (just) a little weak after being bedridden."
Despite the shattering news, the 27-year-old said there was a silver lining to the nightmare situation.
"My wife is getting induced today," he said. "So if I was fighting in Perth, I would have missed the birth of my daughter."
Whittaker said he would have been distraught if he was absent from one of the biggest moments in his life.
"I can't let my wife go through that alone. I was meant to go to Perth and see the fans but I'm homebound and going to the hospital today."