The cancelled title bout we were all looking forward to back in 2019 is set to take place on April 17th. Brett Okamoto announced via his Twitter page that “The one that got away in 2019, is now scheduled for next month”. Although this bout will not be for the middleweight crown, it will certainly have a huge impact on the title picture, with a win for either man setting up a possible rematch with champion Israel Adesanya. The previous booking of this fight saw then-champion Whittaker have to pull out just hours before the fight due to a hernia and a twisted bowel. This being for the title prompted Gastelum to don ‘Triple C’ Henry Cejudo’s belt and taunt Adesanya from the cage side.
The announcement comes days after Paulo Costa announced that he was pulling out of the fight due to a severe case of the flu. There was a lot of online speculation as to who, if anyone, would replace Costa and whether or not we would see Whittaker still compete. Thankfully Kelvin Gastelum has stepped in on just one month’s notice. Gastelum didn’t have the easiest run after his close title loss to Adesanya, dropping a unanimous decision the Darren Till, who was making his divisional debut and then a round-one heel hook loss to Jack Hermansson. Gastelum was able to bounce back with an impressive underdog victory over Ian Heinisch and with a win over ‘Bobby Knuckles’ he could soon see himself toe to toe with the champion to relive their incredible 2019 war.
Gastelum had been hinting on his Twitter that he was waiting for his phone to ring, even changing his handle to #OnAmission4Gold. before announcing that he had been given the call to fight in 5 weeks. This comes as a huge opportunity for Gastelum as with him only winning one of his last 4 bouts, it was looking like it could be a long road back to the title. All I can say is I was hyped for this bout in 2019 and I will be carrying that hype all the way to April.