Sports

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 newly-crowned middleweight champion was supposed to make the first defence of his 185lbs crown at the promotion's second pay-per-view card of the year, which takes place in Australia on February 11. 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 was then declared the undisputed middleweight champion but now that he's been sidelined another interim belt will be introduced with the victor of Rockhold vs. Romero expected to then unify the title later in 2018. This fight at UFC 221 will be the second interim title in that division in the a year ago.

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.

"Finally, Friday's news confirms two additional points in we still can not have nice things in MMA, and the UFC's love for interim belts continues to roll strong". Whittaker's interim tag was removed and he was promoted to undisputed champion in December after Georges St-Pierre vacated the middleweight title he won when he submitted Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in November.

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

The bout was scheduled to be against former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who now has a different challenge to face come February 10th down under. This card meant so much to me and I'm devastated for not being able to fight. "All the best to Yoel and Luke for their fight and ill be waiting..."

Former champion Rockhold returned to action at UFC Fight Night 116 in September of 2017, ending the fifteen-month hiatus that followed his first-round stoppage defeat to Bisping at UFC 199 and the loss of his middleweight crown. Romero has been out of action since his loss to Whittaker.


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