Kelvin Gastelum Reportedly Replacing Paulo Costa in Robert Whittaker UFC Fight

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIMarch 17, 2021

Robert Whittaker, right, and Yoel Romero fight during their middleweight title bout at the UFC 225 mixed martial arts event early Sunday, June 10, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Young)
Jim Young/Associated Press

Robert Whittaker will now face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Night on April 17 after Paulo Costa was forced to withdraw, according ESPN's Brett Okamoto.

Gastelum (16-6, 6 KOs) is coming off an unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch in February that snapped a three fight losing streak against Israel Adesanya, Darren Till and Jack Hermansson. He'll finally get to face Whittaker (22-5, 9 KOs) after their previously scheduled bout in 2019 was canceled on the morning of the fight due to Whittaker requiring emergency surgery for a collapsed bowel and internal hernia.

Whittaker is coming off unanimous decision victories over Till and Jared Cannonier in 2020 but has yet to step into the octagon in 2021. 

Now he gets chance to do so while finally completing a long-awaited middleweight bout. 

Whittaker remains the No. 1 challenger to middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in UFC's rankings. Costa is No. 2 right behind him, which would've created a de facto event to see who gets to face Adesanya next. Gastelum, meanwhile, is ranked No. 8 in the class and could a win over Whittaker to vault himself up a few more spots. 

If he's going to earn another shot at Adesanya, Whittaker will need to truly show out against Gastelum. Whittaker previously fought Adesanya for the title at UFC 243 only to get knocked out on punches midway through the second round. 

After falling to Jan Blachowicz in a bid for the light heavyweight title on March 6, Adesanya announced his intention to move back to 185 pounds and defend his middleweight title for his next appearance. That puts all eyes on Gastelum versus Whittaker to see if one of the two could be the next to challenge the current champion.