Earlier in the week, news emerged that Paulo Costa was pulling out of his pivotal middleweight match-up with Robert Whittaker due to illness limiting his training ahead of the contest – the main attraction of the UFC on ESPN 22 event slated for 17 April.
Kelvin Gastelum will be stepping in to take Costa’s place and fight former UFC middleweight champion Whittaker in a bout that could determine the next challenger to Israel Adesanya’s crown at 185 pounds.
The event is set to take place in the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and this update to the card was first reported on by ESPN.
Gastelum, a former challenger for the interim UFC middleweight championship, was actually booked to fight the Australian over two years ago at UFC 234. However, Whittaker withdrew on the day of the fight to undergo duel emergency surgery for a hernia and a twisted and collapsed bowel.
With Whittaker out, Gastelum instead fought Adesanya a couple of months later for the interim belt – losing a back-and-forth decision against the Kiwi in a contest widely seen as Fight of the Year in 2019.
Whittaker has a loss in common with Gastelum in Adesanya – a second round TKO defeat that saw him lose his championship. He has since strung together two big wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier.
The victor on 17 April will likely be in line for a rematch with Adesanya next.