October 24, 2018

Robert Whittaker out of UFC 221 title fight with Luke Rockhold

13 January 2018, 09:42 | Anna Jefferson

New Zealand-born Robert Whittaker ruled out of UFC 221 in Perth through injury

Marquee man Robert Whittaker pulls out of UFC's WA debut event

Middleweight title holder Robert Whittaker was set to defend his gold against Luke Rockhold.

According to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, who broke the news of Whittaker's withdrawal and the subsequent reshake, Whittaker wanted to compete in spite of his injury woes but was declared medically unfit to do so.

Rockhold made his return from injury at UFC Fight Night 116, stepping back in the cage after a 15-month layoff. "I've been ruled medically unable to compete and won't be able to defend on home soil", Whittaker said on Instagram.

It will be the first time the UFC has staged an event in Western Australia, and Whittaker admits he is devastated not to be fighting on the card. The bout was scheduled to be against former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who now has a different challenge to face come February 10th down under.

Yoel Romero has stepped up to take on Rockhold. UFC officials told ESPN that Whittaker will face the victor in a unification bout. 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. The bout will now be contested for the interim UFC middleweight title. He defeated former two-division WSOF champion David Branch, the man Romero was originally scheduled to face at UFC on FOX 28 on February 24.

33-year-old Rockhold, meanwhile, defeated Branch via TKO back in September. In November, former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year absence to win the title against Bisping at UFC 217. Heading into the Whittaker fight, Romero had won eight consecutive fights, six of the wins coming by knockout.

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