Born UFC champion Robert Whittaker apologises after withdrawing from bout


Rockhold and Romero competing for an interim strap further signals to said return, but Whittaker suffering an injury is unfortunate nonetheless.

The newly-crowned middleweight champion was supposed to make the first defence of his 185lbs crown at the promotion's second pay-per-view card of the year, which takes place in Australia on February 11.

Whittaker, 27, tried to remain on the event but was ruled medically unable to compete by physicians.

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Whittaker announced early Saturday morning that he will not compete in Perth, Australia due to a medical issue, instead, Luke Rockhold will now face Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title at UFC 221. 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.

It will be a while yet before an Australian gets the opportunity to defend their UFC title on home soil.

Prior to being drafted in to replace Whittaker, Romero had been scheduled to face former two-weight WSOF champion David Branch at UFC on Fox 28 in Orlando, Florida on February 24th - exactly two weeks after the Perth event. It was the former champ's first fight since losing his middleweight belt to Bisping at UFC 199 in June of 2016.

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33-year-old Rockhold, meanwhile, defeated Branch via TKO back in September.

With Rockhold Vs Romero established as the new main event, UFC 221 proceeds with a card that will also feature Mark Hunt Vs Curtis Blaydes in the co-main event slot. St-Pierre ultimately defeated Bisping to become champion but then he vacated the belt just a few weeks later. Heading into the Whittaker fight, Romero had won eight consecutive fights, six of the wins coming by knockout. Those wins included victories over Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza and Lyoto Machida.

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