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UFC to put interim title on the line in the absence of middleweight champ Whittaker

A bout between Kelvin Gastelum and undefeated star Israel Adesanya will take place at UFC 236.

UFC 234 MELBOURNE Israel Adesanya taunts Anderson Silva during their bout at UFC 234. Source: AAP/PA Images

THE UFC IS to install an interim champion in its middleweight division while reigning title-holder Robert Whittaker recovers from surgery.

Dana White, the president of MMA’s chief organisation, has told ESPN that Israel Adesanya (16-0) and Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) will meet in an interim title bout at UFC 236, which is scheduled to take place on 13 April at a yet-to-be-confirmed venue.

Whittaker was due to defend his title against Gastelum at UFC 234 in Melbourne earlier this month. However, the champion had to withdraw just hours before the fight when he was hospitalised with an abdominal hernia.

The Sydney-based 28-year-old hopes to be back in action in the summer, but in the meantime the UFC’s middleweight division will press ahead in his absence. 

UFC 234 MEDIA OPP Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum pictured prior to their cancelled bout. Source: AAP/PA Images

A native of California, Gastelum pushed his way into the middleweight title picture with victories over former champion Michael Bisping and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.

New Zealand-based Adesanya has taken the UFC by storm since his debut for the organisation in February of last year. The Nigerian-born striker defeated ex-middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva via unanimous decision at UFC 234.

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Paul Dollery

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