Whittaker out of UFC 221, Rockhold vs. Romero for interim belt
Due to an undisclosed injury, UFC welterweight champion Robert Whittaker has pulled out his title defense vs. Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 on February 11, 2018 at Perth Arena in Perth, Western Australia. Opponent Luke Rockhold will now be fighting Yoel Romero for the interim belt. The news was first reported by ESPN, and was confirmed when the UFC Australia account shared a local story.
“I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve,” said Whittaker on his social network. “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 andI’ll be waiting…”
Whittaker won the interim title defeating Yoel Romero at UFC 213 on July 8, 2017. The belt was elevated to undisputed after Georges St-Pierre defeated champion Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in November, and then vacated citing medical issues.
Rockhold is coming off a win over David Branch. It was his first fight since losing the middleweight belt to Bisping at UFC 199 on June 4, 2016. Romero was scheduled to fight Branch at UFC on Fox 28 February 24, 2018, but has pulled for the greater opportunity.
Tourism WA chief executive Joe Ostojich wished Whittaker a speedy recovery.
“We’re sure this injury is more devastating to him than anyone,” he said. “We do our best to attract fans to these big events in Perth. Anyone with concerns should contact the UFC. We, like Robert Whittaker, hope the fans enjoy what should be a great day of fights.”
The event sold out, with approximately 14,000 fans expected to attend. Given the loss of the main event, fans can request a full refund at the point of sale. However, fans of the sport are remarkably non-partisan, and the show should remain sold out or very nearly.