At 514 days and counting, Robert Whittaker now holds the UFC record for longest time between winning a championship and his first title defense.
It’s safe to say Robert Whittaker’s UFC middleweight title reign is not like the others and now it will be a part of UFC history in more ways than one, as Whittaker now holds the UFC record for longest time between title win and first title defense.
Whittaker earned the record on May 3, which marked his 512th day as the UFC’s undisputed 185-pound champion. The record was previously held by Conor McGregor, who won the UFC lightweight championship at UFC 205 in November 2016 before being stripped of the title for inactivity when Khabib Nurmagomedov claimed the belt at UFC 223 in April 2018.
Whittaker’s path to this UFC record is more bizarre considering he didn’t win the middleweight championship inside the Octagon. Whittaker defeated Yoel Romero to win the interim title at UFC 213 in July 2017, but he was then scheduled to face the winner of the UFC 217 title fight between Michael Bisping and Georges St. Pierre. GSP won the title but surrendered it on Dec. 7 due to colitis, which forced the UFC to promote Whittaker to undisputed champion.
Whittaker then was scheduled for his first defense at UFC 221 in February 2018 against former champion Luke Rockhold. Whittaker, however, would suffer a staph infection, forcing him out of the bout. He was replaced by Romero and the bout was made an interim title fight.
Here’s where Romero gets further involved in this new Whittaker record. Romero missed weight for the UFC 221 fight but defeated Rockhold, meaning there could be no interim champion. Nonetheless, UFC President Dana White granted Romero a title shot and rematch with Whittaker at UFC 225 that June. Whittaker was healthy and ready to go, but Romero missed weight yet again, forcing the main event to become a non-title bout. Whittaker won via a controversial decision.
Whittaker was then slated to defend against Kelvin Gastelum, but the fight had to be held off until 2019 due to both men coaching the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. It was supposed to happen at UFC 234, but the fight was pulled on hours’ notice due to a hernia suffered by Whittaker. Gastelum instead fought Israel Adesanya for an interim title at UFC 236, which was won by Adesanya.
Whittaker and Adesanya are now slated for an undisputed title fight that will also serve as Whittaker’s first title defense. The fight is expected to take place in a stadium venue in Australia, and, considering the UFC’s current plans for future pay-per-view events, it most likely won’t occur until Q4 2019 or Q1 2020.