UFC 221: Robert Whittaker issues statement on withdrawal from Luke Rockhold bout

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New Zealand-born UFC middleweight champion and headline act Robert Whittaker has apologised to his fans after being forced to withdraw from Perth's UFC blockbuster in February. This fight at UFC 221 will be the second interim title in that division in the previous year. In a very active division, Rockhold and Romero have never faced each other.

According to UFC officials, per ESPN.com's Brett Okamoto, the local favorite has withdrawn from his scheduled UFC 221 bout with Luke Rockhold because of an undisclosed injury.

"I've been ruled medically unable to compete and won't be able to defend on home soil", Whittaker said on Instagram. "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 victor of the main event".

Robert Whittaker became the UFC middleweight champion when Georges St. Pierre relinquished his belt. Customers who purchased tickets are eligible for a full refund.

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The 33-year-old former champion is coming off a TKO win over David Branch in September.

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 victor will meet Whittaker in a title unification bout.

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.

Before that, Rockhold had amassed five victories in a row over key 185lb players like Chris Weidman, Lyoto Machida and Bisping.