Robert Whittaker Injured; Luke Rockhold Now Fights Yoel Romero At UFC 221

Robert Whittaker Injured; Luke Rockhold Now Fights Yoel Romero At UFC 221

The UFC made the decision to do so after Whittaker was forced to withdraw from the event, at which he was supposed to defend his recently upgraded strap against Luke Rockhold, due to an undisclosed injury.

Rockhold (16-3) will now face Yoel Romero (12-2) for an interim 185-pound championship.

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.

Whittaker just became the official champion after former champ Georges St-Pierre vacated the title following his third-round submission win over former champ Michael Bisping in the main event of November 4's UFC 217. The bout will now be for the interim middleweight championship.

"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia", Whittaker said in a statement. 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.

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The 40-year-old Romero comes into the fight off the back of an interim title fight defeat to the aforementioned Whittaker in July of last year, but prior to that he had been on an eight-fight winning streak that had seen him defeat the likes of Chris Weidman, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Lyoto Machida and Tim Kennedy.

While Rockhold vs. Romero is a high-quality replacement for Whittaker vs. Rockhold, it is likely to disappoint fans in Perth and those who had planned to travel from other parts of Australia. Romero was set to fight against David Branch at UFC Orlando on February 24, he will now fight two weeks earlier than expected, this time for the interim-title. Branch will now be looking for a new opponent.

A former Cuban Olympic silver-medalist wrestler, Romero was scheduled to face Branch at a UFC Fight Night event on February 24.

Because of the change in main event, fans will be able to request full refunds of purchased tickets for UFC 221.

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