NEW YORK — UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will get a second shot at defending his title on home soil.
UFC president Dana White told ESPN on Friday that Whittaker (20-4) will defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum (15-3) in his home country of Australia.
White did not provide a specific date, but sources told ESPN the UFC is targeting Feb. 10 (Australia time) as the date for a pay-per-view event in Melbourne.
“We do,” said White, when asked if the promotion has an event for the 185-pound championship bout. “We’ll announce that when it’s time. It’ll be in Australia.”
Whittaker, 27, was born in New Zealand and fights out of Sydney. He was supposed to make his first title defense against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, last February but was forced out of the contest because of an injury.
Additionally, White confirmed he has discussed booking former champion Chris Weidman as a potential alternate for the middleweight bout in the event something happens to Whittaker or Gastelum. The UFC has made a habit of booking alternates to its major pay-per-view events in case there is an injury.
“Yeah, we need alternates for things like that,” White said. “You know the crazy stuff that goes on around here.”
Whittaker and Gastelum coached against each other on the most recent season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series. Whittaker will be seeking his second defense. Gastelum is coming off wins against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Michael Bisping.