Robert Whittaker Injured & Off UFC 221, Interim Champion To Be Crowned

Robert Whittaker fights Cuban Yoel Romero

The development cleared the way for Whittaker, the first Australian champion in UFC history, to make his first title defense in the headliner of the organization's first event in Perth. Whittaker broke his silence only hours ago, saying he was "ruled medically unable to compete".

The man Whittaker beat to earn interim gold last summer, Yoel Romero, will take his place.

Whittaker first won the interim title in July of a year ago, elevated to the undisputed champion after newly crowned king Georges St-Pierre - who defeated then-champ Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in November - elected to vacate the throne after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. 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. "I've been ruled medically unable to compete and won't be able to defend on home soil", Whittaker said on Instagram. "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 victor of the main event". The loss was Romero's first since he was KO'd by Rafael Calvacante in a light-heavyweight bout at a Strikeforce event in September of 2011 and his first ever in the UFC.

Rockhold made his return from injury at UFC Fight Night 116, stepping back in the cage after a 15-month layoff. Their meeting had been declared an interim title fight due to a lack of championship activity in the division and amidst confusion surrounding Bisping's on again, off again match-up with St-Pierre.

Before that, Rockhold had amassed five victories in a row over key 185lb players like Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida and Bisping.

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