UFC 221: Robert Whittaker issues statement on withdrawal from Luke Rockhold bout

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News broke earlier today that UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) had sustained an injury and will be unable to defend his title at UFC 221 in Perth.

The 27-year-old became the first Australian-based champion in UFC history, however will now be replaced by Yoel Romero who will take on Luke Rockhold for an interim 185-pound championship.

"I've been ruled medically unable to compete and won't be able to defend on home soil", Whittaker said on Instagram.

According to UFC officials, per ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto, the local favorite has withdrawn from his scheduled UFC 221 bout with Luke Rockhold because of an undisclosed injury. The new main event at UFC 221 will still have championship gold resting in the balance as Rockhold vs. Romero will fight for an interim strap with the victor facing Whittaker in a unification bout later in 2018.

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Marc Gasol finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis while JaMychal Green contributed 20 points and 14 rebounds. Kris Dunn led the way with 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, while Niko Mirotic posted 19 points off the bench.

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.

Whittaker was crowned interim champion last July with a win over Romero while Michael Bisping was injured and awaiting an eventual showdown with Georges St-Pierre in November.

Because of the change in main event, fans will be able to request full refunds of purchased tickets for UFC 221.

With Rockhold Vs Romero established as the new main event, UFC 221 proceeds with a card that will also feature Mark Hunt Vs Curtis Blaydes in the co-main event slot. The victor will meet Whittaker in a title unification bout. St-Pierre opted to vacate the championship just 31 days later, citing health reasons.

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