Whittaker announced early Saturday morning that he will not compete in Perth, Australia due to a medical issue, instead, Luke Rockhold will now face Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title at UFC 221.
The 27-year-old Whittaker, the first Australian-born champion in UFC history, tried to remain on the card but doctors found him medically unable to fight.
Romero last competed in July of 2017, when he lost a unanimous decision to Whittaker over five rounds in the main event of UFC 213.
UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was slated to face Luke Rockhold in the main event at UFC 221, but it appears that an injury has forced "Bobby Knuckles" to the sidelines. In a very active division, Rockhold and Romero have never faced each other. Whittaker headlining an event in his home country of Australia had all the hype in the world. "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". St-Pierre ultimately defeated Bisping to become champion but then he vacated the belt just a few weeks later.
"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 wrote in an Instagram post. This card meant so much to me and I'm devastated for not being able to fight.
Romero had been scheduled to fight David Branch at UFC On FOX 28 on February 24th in Orlando, Florida, so he was already in training, but he'll now have two weeks less to prepare for a higher stakes fight. 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. I wish Yoel and Lucas [Rockhold] the best.