Robert Whittaker out of UFC 221 Yoel Romero to fight Luke Rockhold for interim belt
14 January, 2018, 15:37
The development cleared the way for Whittaker, the first Australian champion in UFC history, to make his first title defense in the headliner of the organization's first event in Perth.
Rockhold will instead face Yoel Romero for an interim belt in the main event of the card on February 11 in Perth, Australia.
The top-ranked middleweight issued a statement on social media saying that he had been ruled "medically unable" to fight at next month's event.
Robert Whittaker, left, punches Yoel Romero in their interim UFC middleweight championship bout in Las Vegas, in July. The new main event at UFC 221 will still have championship gold resting in the balance as Rockhold vs. Romero will fight for an interim strap with the victor facing Whittaker in a unification bout later in 2018.
Whittaker's injury with a new interim title being introduced is just the latest saga affecting the middleweight division.
Yoel Romero has been pulled from his planned match against David Branch at UFC Fight Night in Orlando.
"I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve", he wrote.
Whittaker had held an interim title until Georges St. Pierre vacated the middleweight belt in December and Whittaker, a Sydney resident, was promoted to outright champion.
In the short term, despite being well-tailored to the local audience, UFC 221 was a one-fight card for the rest of the world. I wish Yoel and Lucas [Rockhold] the best. Rockhold and Romero competing for an interim strap further signals to said return, but Whittaker suffering an injury is unfortunate nonetheless.
The switch is yet another unusual turn in the UFC's middleweight division.
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