Robert Whittaker Out; Luke Rockhold Faces Yoel Romero for Interim Title at UFC 221
UFC 221 has just suffered a major loss as middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has been forced out of the main event due to injury.
With Whittaker out of action, the UFC has decided to move forward with an interim middleweight title bout pitting Luke Rockhold against Yoel Romero in the new headline fight for the card taking place on Feb. 10 from Perth, Australia.
UFC officials confirmed the news Friday night via ESPN.
“I’m beyond disappointed that I’m unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia,” Whittaker said in a statement. “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.”
The winner of the new main event between Rockhold and Romero is then expected to face off with Whittaker later this year.
It’s a big blow to the UFC’s upcoming pay-per-view card in Australia as Whittaker hails from the area and obviously would have been a big local draw for the event. Now the UFC will instead crown an interim champion less than a year after Whittaker won a similar interim title while the middleweight belt was tied up due to a pending fight between Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre.
St-Pierre eventually defeated Bisping to win the belt and then vacated the title a few weeks later, which made Whittaker the undisputed champion. Now another interim belt will be introduced at UFC 221 in February.
As for the new main event, Rockhold was already scheduled for the card but Romero will now jump into the headline spot after originally being matched up against David Branch in a middleweight bout a few weeks later at UFC on FOX 28 from Orlando.
Romero lost to Whittaker last July in another interim title fight and now he’ll get another shot at the belt while facing Rockhold in Australia.
UFC 221: Rockhold vs. Romero will air live on pay-per-view on Saturday, Feb. 10.