Robert Whittaker injured; Romero vs. Rockhold now headlines UFC 221

The UFC has suffered a devastating blow to its upcoming event in Australia after middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was ruled medically unable to compete.

Whittaker, born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, was scheduled to face Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC 221 in Perth on Feb. 11 but he suffered several significant injuries in training. Yoel Romero has been named as his replacement. Romero and Rockhold will compete in a five-round bout with a belt on the line as the promotion is introducing yet another interim title.

The news was first reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and later confirmed by the UFC early Saturday morning.

“I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve,” Whittaker wrote in an Instagram post. “I’ve been ruled medically unable to compete and won’t be able to defend on home soil. This card meant so much to me and I’m devastated for not being able to fight. All I can do is focus on getting healthy to come back better than ever. All the best to Yoel and Luke for their fight and I’ll be waiting.”

Whittaker (19-4) has gone 7-0 since moving up to the 185-pound division in 2014 after competing at welterweight for the first five years of his career. He began his UFC tenure by winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes in 2012 and holds notable victories over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Derek Brunson, Brad Tavares and Uriah Hall among others.

The 27-year-old was crowned interim middleweight champion last July after earning a tightly contested unanimous decision victory over Romero in the main event of UFC 213. Whittaker’s interim tag was removed and he was promoted to undisputed champion in December after …read more


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