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Robert Whittaker scored his first finish in the cage since 2017 at last weekend’s UFC event in Saudi Arabia — and it seems that he wasn’t just battling four-time Combat Sambo world champ Ikram Aliskerov. 

Former middleweight champion Whittaker needed less than two minutes to hand Aliskerov just the second loss of his 17-fight career, wobbling the Russian with a clubbing punch before he pounced to finish the fight with a flurry of follow-up strikes moments later.

And as revealed by his entourage, the victory came just days after Whittaker was forced to undergo an emergency procedure to address a painful abscess under one of his teeth. The condition is bacterial infection which can be extremely painful, particularly if located close to a nerve.

“Rob has a really bad abscess that flared up a week before flying out,” his agent, Titus Day, told Fox Sports Australia, as noted by Bloody Elbow. “He had headaches, tooth pain, it was like he’d been kicked in the side of the head. He couldn’t train, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. It was f*cking painful. The whole side of his head was in pain so we had to rush him in for emergency surgery.”

Day added that the resultant swelling caused concerns as to whether he would pass medical checks to be cleared to take his place in the main event of the UFC’s maiden event in Riyadh.

“Rob had already stopped training a few days prior to the surgery in Sydney,” he said. “And then flew out with his face still numb. We had no idea if it was going to be alright. Everyone was just praying the swelling would go down and everything would be OK. And thankfully, it was. But Rob’s still got pain there. Still needs more surgery to be done in the next couple of weeks.”

In the aftermath of the fight, Whittaker expressed an interest in serving as the backup fighter to the upcoming title bout between Dricus du Plessis and Israel Adesanya in Australia in August — but Day said that his medical situation could potentially hinder this opportunity.

“Right now, regarding Perth, it’s just too early to say,” Day said. “Obviously there was a lot of talk on the night about Rob being the backup for that UFC 305 main event. There was also talk about him fighting somebody else, too. And potentially, he could still do either of those. He’ll have to meet with the team and talk it through.”