Robert Whittaker out of UFC 221; Yoel Romero to fight Luke Rockhold for interim belt

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Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) has withdrawn from his UFC 221 title defense against Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) because of an undisclosed injury.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, 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.

The new booking also affects UFC on FOX 28, where Romero originally was set to face David Branch on Feb. 24 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. It’s unknown what the contingency is for that card.

Whittaker won the interim belt against Romero last July at UFC 213 and was later promoted to undisputed champion after Georges St-Pierre

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