Whittaker suffered an undisclosed injury while training for his first ever title defense against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 and will be unable to compete, UFC confirmed on Saturday morning. The bout was going to headline UFC 221 inside Perth Arena in Perth, Western Australia.
The nature and extent of his injuries is unclear, but the show will go on.
Robert Whittaker, left, punches Yoel Romero in their interim UFC middleweight championship bout in Las Vegas, in July.
"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia", Whittaker told ESPN. 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. UFC officials told ESPN that Whittaker will face the victor in a unification bout. "With the change in the main event, customers may request a full refund of purchased tickets at point of sale".
Rockhold, who trains out of American Kickboxing Academy and Combat Club, is looking to recapture a UFC title. The former Strikeforce and UFC champ only recently returned to action following a lengthy layoff after his loss to Bisping at UFC 199, defeating former WSOF champ Branch last September. This fight at UFC 221 will be the second interim title in that division in the a year ago.
Romero was originally set to face David Branch at UFC Orlando on February 24, that fight has since been canceled and it unsure as of yet if Branch will receive a replacement opponent, or if he will be removed from that card. Those wins included victories over Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza and Lyoto Machida.