When it was announced that UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker would not be defending his title at UFC 221 in Perth, a collective gasp could be heard across the country.
UFC 221 was expected to be a celebration of Australian mixed martial arts. A host of local talent on a pay-per-view card with its newly crowned champion defending his middleweight title for the very first time to crown the evening.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
While there was no official word from Whittaker on why he needed to pull out, UFC President Dana White stated that Whittaker had a staph infection in his stomach.
In an autograph signing in Western Sydney last night, Whittaker himself provided some new information concerning a series of events that forced him to withdraw from the contest.
“Just before I got ill, I blew my hamstring but we could work around it. We were doing things to compensate for it” Whittaker said.
“But then I got a really bad infection and the infection and the anti-biotics just took it out of me. I was struggling to recover and right at the end of the infection, I got the chickenpox. That’s why I got the scars on my face, I was an absolute mess.”
With Whittaker unable to compete, his last opponent, Yoel Romero will take his place to fight Luke Rockhold for the interim-middleweight title at UFC 221 in Perth on February 11.
Asked what he thought of the match up, Whittaker appeared more than happy to let the number 1 and number 2 contenders go at each other before he fought the eventual winner.
“As a fan of this sport I would have paid to watch this fight, this is a fight that the people want to see. I’m more than happy to bash Yoel again and I’m more than happy to give it to Rockhold as well, we will see.” Whittaker said.
UFC 221 takes place February 11 at the Perth Arena, the first UFC event to be scheduled in Western Australia.
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports):
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass):