Marquee man Robert Whittaker pulls out of UFC's WA debut event


UFC 221 has been hit with a massive swap, as the promotion's announced that middleweight champ Robert Whittaker has withdrawn from the card's headlining bout with Luke Rockhold.

"I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve". Whittaker headlining an event in his home country of Australia had all the hype in the world. This card meant so much to me and I'm devastated for not being able to fight. The bout was going to headline UFC 221 inside Perth Arena in Perth, Western Australia. All I can do is focus on getting healthy to come back better than ever. 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. I wish Yoel and Lucas [Rockhold] the best.

Whittaker (19-4) has gone 7-0 since moving up to the 185-pound division in 2014 after competing at welterweight for the first five years of his career.

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.

More news: Two Manitobans make Canada's men's Olympic hockey team

He defeated former two-division WSOF champion David Branch, the man Romero was originally scheduled to face at UFC on FOX 28 on February 24.

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.

He will now face the victor of Romero versus Rockhold in a unification bout, with all customers who purchased tickets for UFC 221 eligible for a refund.