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Robert Whittaker pulls out of UFC 221; Yoel Romero replaces him

Robert Whittaker pulls out of UFC 221; Yoel Romero replaces him

The UFC made the decision to do so after Whittaker was forced to withdraw from the event, at which he was supposed to defend his recently upgraded strap against Luke Rockhold, due to an undisclosed injury. While Whittaker vs. Rockhold was a compelling fight, the event features no other global draws outside fan-favorite heavyweight Mark Hunt, who is set to face the unheralded Curtis Blaydes.

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.

A UFC official confirmed an ESPN report late Friday night.

"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 said in an Instagram post on Saturday morning.

Whittaker, born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, was scheduled to face Luke Rockhold in the main event of UFC 221 in Perth on February 11 but he suffered several significant injuries in training.

"All I can do is focus on getting healthy to come back better than ever".

The 40-year-old had his eight-fight winning streak snapped by Whittaker in an interim title bout at T-Mobile Arena in July. "All the best to Yoel and Luke for their fight and I'll be waiting..." He has not competed since losing to Whittaker last summer. He defeated former two-division WSOF champion David Branch, the man Romero was originally scheduled to face at UFC on FOX 28 on February 24.

Meanwhile, Rockhold (16-3) is coming off a September submission win over Branch.

Robert Whittaker became the UFC middleweight champion when Georges St. Pierre relinquished his belt. The bout will now be contested for the interim UFC middleweight title.

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