It will be a while yet before an Australian gets the opportunity to defend their UFC title on home soil.
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. It is unknown at this stage what the injury is.
“I’m beyond disappointed that I’m unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia,” Whittaker said in a statement.
“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.”
It is a major blow for the event as the UFC take their first trip to Western Australia after the state recently had a ban on the cage lifted for MMA events.
The show must go on however on and now Cuban powerhouse Yoel Romero (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) will step in as Whittaker’s replacement to fight Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) for the interim-title.
Romero last fought and lost to Whittaker in a five-round contest that put Whittaker in the history books as Australia’s first UFC champion. Romero was set to fight against David Branch at UFC Orlando on February 24, he will now fight two weeks earlier than expected, this time for the interim-title.
Because of the change in main event, fans will be able to request full refunds of purchased tickets for UFC 221.
UFC 221 takes place February 11 at the Perth Arena in Western Australia.
The updated UFC 221 lineup now includes:
Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero – for interim middleweight title
Curtis Blaydes vs. Mark Hunt
Cyril Asker vs. Tai Tuivasa
Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews
Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov
Damien Brown vs. “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim
Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson
Jeremy Kennedy vs. Alex Volkanovski
Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen
Mizuto Hirota vs. Ross Pearson
Teruto Ishihara vs. Jose Quinonez
Daichi Abe vs. Luke Jumeau