The UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has withdrawn from a scheduled title defence against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 next month due to an undisclosed injury.
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto broke the news in the early hours of this morning.
In what will be a blow to both Whittaker and the UFC, Whittaker was headlining in his adopted country of Australia in his first title defence since being moved up from interim to full champ.
His opponent Luke Rockhold (16-3) will now face Yoel Romero (12-2) for an interim 185-pound championship. UFC officials told ESPN that Whittaker will face the winner in a unification bout.
“I’m beyond disappointed that I’m unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia,” Whittaker stated to ESPN. “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.”
This could prove to a problem for the UFC ticket sales for this event as most fans would have been going to see the first ever Australian based UFC champion. According to ESPN fans will be able to receive a full ticket refund.