Robert Whittaker out of UFC 221 title defense due to injury

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

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

The 27-year-old became the first Australian-based champion in UFC history, however will now be replaced by Yoel Romero who will take on Luke Rockhold for an interim 185-pound championship. UFC 221 is scheduled to take place in Perth, Australia on February 3.

Whittaker's injury was first reported by ESPN's Brett Okamoto on Friday with additional news that Yoel Romero will be stepping up to face Rockhold instead.

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. The UFC announced its middleweight champion will not be competing at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, after being ruled medically unable to compete.

"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia", Whittaker said in the release. 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 bout in Perth is no more. Image Getty
Whittaker's bout in Perth is no more. Image Getty

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. All I can do is focus on getting healthy to come back better than ever.

Romero was originally set to face David Branch at UFC Orlando on February 24, that fight has since been canceled and it unsure as of yet if Branch will receive a replacement opponent, or if he will be removed from that card. After losing the title to Bisping, Rockhold took over a year off before coming back to face Branch. "All the best to Yoel and Luke for their fight and I'll be waiting..."

People who bought tickets for UFC 221 can receive a full refund.

Alabama-UCF among 10 biggest national title discords of last 25 years
A future meeting of the teams would do nothing to change the outcome of 2017, but it'd still be fun, and fun things are good. All of this was established before the Knights went out and beat the Auburn Tigers, staking a legitimate claim to the title.

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