Robert Whittaker’s first title defense as undisputed UFC middleweight champion is on hold.
Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) has withdrawn from his UFC 221 title defense against Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) because of an undisclosed injury. Yoel Romero (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) will replace Whittaker and face Rockhold for the interim title.
The news was first reported early Saturday morning by ESPN, which cited UFC officials. Whittaker also remarked on the unfortunate news.
“I’m beyond disappointed that I’m unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia,” Whittaker said. “I hope the fans enjoy what should be a great night of fights at UFC 221, and I look forward to a recovery as soon as possible that will have me back in the octagon to face the winner of the main event.”
UFC 221 takes place Feb. 10 at Perth Arena in Perth, Australia, and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.
The new booking also affects UFC on FOX 28, where Romero originally was set to face David Branch on Feb. 24 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. It’s unknown what the contingency is for that card.
Whittaker won the interim belt against Romero last July at UFC 213 and was later promoted to undisputed champion after Georges St-Pierre vacated the title one month removed from his UFC 217 win over Michael Bisping.
The new complete UFC 221 lineup now includes:
MAIN CARD (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)
- Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero – for interim middleweight title
- Curtis Blaydes vs. Mark Hunt
- Cyril Asker vs. Tai Tuivasa
- Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews
- Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov
PRELIMINARY CARD (FS1, 8 p.m. ET)
- Damien Brown vs. “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim
- Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson
- Jeremy Kennedy vs. Alex Volkanovski
- Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:45 p.m. ET)
- Mizuto Hirota vs. Ross Pearson
- Teruto Ishihara vs. Jose Quinonez
- Daichi Abe vs. Luke Jumeau
- UFC Fight Night 124's Emil Meek OK being underdog against Kamaru Usman
- With move to flyweight, Paige VanZant confident she can avoid embarrassments in fights
- What UFC's Russia event means for Khabib Nurmagomedov, lightweight title picture
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Robert Whittaker out of UFC 221; Yoel Romero to fight Luke Rockhold for interim belt