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Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) has withdrawn from his UFC 221 title defense against Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) because of an undisclosed injury.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.com, 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.
Whittaker also commented on his injury on his Instagram account, on which he said he was “ruled medically unable to compete.”
The new booking also affects UFC on FOX 28, at which Romero originally was set to face David Branch on Feb. 24 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. It is not yet known if Branch will remain on the card against a new opponent.
Whittaker won the interim belt against Romero this past July at UFC 213 and was later promoted to undisputed champion after Georges St-Pierre vacated the title not long after 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