How should UFC handle the middleweight title situation moving forward? Gastelum, Adesanya, or something else?
Gary Meigs, MMATorch Contributor
Seeing as it’s a relatively small period of time, I believe the title should stay with Robert Whittaker. I don’t believe Whittaker should lose his title when Khabib Nurmagomedov hasn’t fought since UFC 229 in October. UFC should have an interim title match between Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya.
Cole Henry, Host – MMA Scope Podcast
Unless Whittaker ends up being out for a prolonged period of time, I think the UFC should just rebook him against Gastelum. I think Adesanya could have had a chance to pass Gastelum with an impressive enough performance, but I don’t think he achieved that goal and for that reason, I really think he needs a top 5 win before he fights for the title. So rebook Gastelum/Whittaker, and book Adesanya against Ronaldo Jacare Souza.
Frank Hyden, Columnist – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I think you keep Gastelum as the #1 contender, it wouldn’t be right for him to lose his shot because of someone else’s injury. As for Adesanya, you have him fight once more. It doesn’t have to be a super tough fight or anything, but who knows how long it’ll take Gastelum-Whittaker to happen? You don’t want Adesanya sitting on the sidelines for too long.
Christian Moore, MMATorch Contributor
I think the middleweight division is currently a mess and that this was the worst possible outcome. I say this because now you have Adesanya who was promised a title shot, Gastelum who didn’t get his, and Robert Whittaker who by no means should be stripped. Let’s add to this that we see Paulo Costa vs Yoel Romero before any of these other guys fight, so if by some miracle Paulo Costa KO’s Romero quickly, then he deserves a crack. I personally don’t like Gastelum because of his “well in high school wrestling” remark, crowning himself the champion, and I think he’s making himself look stupid, but you can’t take a title fight away from a guy because the champion got hurt.
So what’s the most reasonable, timeline friendly fight? It has to be Kelvin Gastelum vs Israel Adesanya for the interim belt. I say this because when we look at Whittaker, he’s not a guy that you could rely on to fight twice a year. So if we see Gastelum/Whittaker, we won’t see Adesanya challenge this year if Whittaker wins. Then the middleweight division remains on hold. So I think a fight for an interim belt at UFC 236, with the winner fighting Whittaker in October/November, is the best decision.
Sean Covington, Columnist – Covington’s Corner
I think Gastelum vs. Adesanya is a fun fight and although I hate them, should be for the interim title. When a champion suffers an injury I don’t think they should necessarily be stripped of the title, especially when the champ is pulled from the fight the day of his title defense. Robert Whitaker was willing to sacrifice his life to defend his title so he should get to keep that title. It’s never a good idea to rush a fighter back after injury and Whitaker’s hernia is as about as severe as they come. Interim titles are thrown around entirely too much by Dana White but this is a case where it is totally appropriate and called for.
Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch Managing Editor
It would be wrong and unfair to take away the title shot from Kelvin Gastelum at this point. Gastelum showed up and made weight and was ready to fight. Yes, Adesanya was promised a title shot if he beat Silva, and he can still get his shot, he just might have to wait. Hopefully, Robert Whittaker can recover relatively quickly and fight in the first half of this year so the division doesn’t get too backed up. I would want to avoid an interim title fight, but Gastelum vs. Adesanya would be the fight to make if it comes to it.