With Whittaker out, the UFC has made a decision to move forward with an interim title fight with former champion Luke Rockhold facing Yoel Romero in the new main event from Perth, Australia on February 10.
According to UFC officials, per ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto, the local favorite has withdrawn from his scheduled UFC 221 bout with Luke Rockhold because of an undisclosed injury.
Finally, Friday's news confirms two additional points in we still can not have nice things in MMA, and the UFC's love for interim belts continues to roll strong.More news: Stryker (SYK) EPS Estimated At $1.95; Isramco (ISRL) SI Decreased By 12.86%
"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia." he said.
Whittaker was an obvious choice to headline the event, as he is the first Australia-based champion in UFC history.
Prior to being drafted in to replace Whittaker, Romero had been scheduled to face former two-weight WSOF champion David Branch at UFC on Fox 28 in Orlando, Florida on February 24th - exactly two weeks after the Perth event. Customers who purchased tickets are eligible for a full refund.More news: Trump Doesn't Want Immigrants From 'Shithole' Countries
33-year-old Rockhold, meanwhile, defeated Branch via TKO back in September.
Rockhold will remain in the card and in the main event, now facing late replacement Yoel Romero for the vacant UFC Interim Middleweight Championship. He has not competed since losing to Whittaker last summer.
That will have to wait, however, as it's unknown what Whittaker's timeline to return is, leaving yet another UFC title on the shelf. St-Pierre ultimately defeated Bisping to become champion but then he vacated the belt just a few weeks later. In November, former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year absence to win the title against Bisping at UFC 217.More news: National Basketball Association wrap: LeBron James rips own team as Raptors thrashes Cavs