UFC champ Whittaker set for long layoff after surgery

Adrian Warren

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will likely require surgery on a broken thumb and will battle to fight again this year.

The Sydneysider had a cast covering his right arm and thumb, a day after a split decision win over Cuban Yoel Romero in Chicago in their torrid rematch.

Whittaker returns to Sydney on Thursday and will see a doctor about the surgery.

Asked if he could fight again in 2018, Whittaker said: "Maybe I could be fighting at the end of the year but the hand has to feel 100 per cent.

"I'll take a fight when my body is good and ready.

"How long that will take will depend on the rehab process and how everything is going."

Whittaker said he had no idea who his next opponent might be and would like to fight at home, though he may not be fit for a proposed UFC Australian promotion later this year, at a venue to be announced.

Whittaker, who won a $US100,000 bonus for the fight of the night at UFC 225, said he suffered the injury in the first round, but wasn't sure how it happened.

"I just remember a point where I couldn't feel my hand from my fingertips to my forearm and I was like 'well that's not good," he said.

"It hampered me quite significantly but I stuck to the game plan.

"I shoved a stiff jab, good kicks, and it was working fine until he got a couple of good hits in."

Whittaker broke his right hand in the first round against Romero. Pic: Getty

Romero rained down blows on Whittaker after dropping the Australian in the third and fifth rounds.

However, the champion was adamant he was never in any trouble, despite having to dig deep.

"I knew he wasn't going to do that forever, he was going to tire out," Whittaker said.

"He was never in a position where I felt he was going to put me away.

"I was in it the whole time, he got me with a good shot that put me on my arse a couple of times but it wasn't a destabilising shot, in my opinion."

While Romero failed to make the weight, Whittaker never seriously contemplated pulling out of the fight.

"It was a long flight not to take the fight," he said.

"I didnt need to take that fight because he missed weight.

"I still could have walked away with my pay purse but I came here to fight."