Robert Whittaker is still not ready to step back in the Octagon just yet. Whittaker suffered an undisclosed injury while training for his first ever title defense against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221 and will be unable to compete, UFC confirmed on Saturday morning.
The man Whittaker beat to earn interim gold last summer, Yoel Romero, will take his place.
“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.”
Whittaker was installed as the full-time middleweight champion after Georges St-Pierre vacated the belt he won off of Michael Bisping at UFC 217 in November when it was discovered he was battling ulcerative colitis. As soon as he was installed, Whittaker was booked to take on the former champion Rockhold for the belt.
After beating Romero at UFC 213, Whittaker underwent knee surgery and was unable to fight for six months.
Whittaker has won consecutive bouts with four of those coming via stoppage. UFC 221 is scheduled to take place in Perth, Australia on Feb. 3.
Romero was originally scheduled to take on David Branch on Feb. 24 as part of UFC on Fox in Orlando, Florida. He has not competed since losing to Whittaker last summer.