The Ultimate Fighting Championship will soon head to Perth, Australia but will do without their lone Australian champion.
Announced on January 13, Whittaker was pulled from the main event at UFC 221 after suffering an undisclosed injury and his originally scheduled opponent, former Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, will now fight Yoel Romero for the interim belt in the main event on Feb. 11.
The news was first reported by sports network ESPN and later confirmed by UFC’s Australia/New Zealand Twitter account who shared an article from The West Australian that eluded to Whittaker’s status.
Soon after the news was announced, the Middleweight champ released a statement:
I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve. I've been ruled medically unable to compete and wont 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 ill be waiting…
Rockhold (16-3, 6-2 in UFC) is coming off a win late last year against former duel-division champion David Branch where he finished the fight via technical submission in the second round. Rockhold’s only loss in the last five years has been in the title losing effort to Michael Bisping back at UFC 199.
Romero (12-2, 8-1 in UFC) was scheduled to face David Branch but will now instead compete, for the second straight time, for the Interim Middleweight champion after losing a five-round unanimous decision to Whittaker.
UFC 221 takes place at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia on February 11 and will stream live on pay per view.