Robert Whittaker Out, Yoel Romero Now Faces Luke Rockhold at UFC 221

UFC 234 Robert Whittaker Max Holloway Kelvin Gastelum
Credit: Dave Mandel/

An injury has shaken up the UFC 221 card next month, as Robert Whittaker is out, and Yoel Romero in.

Just when you thought sanity had returned to the UFC middleweight division, an injury to champion Robert Whittaker has once again thrown it into turmoil. Robert Whittaker has been forced to withdraw from the UFC 221 card. In his place, Yoel Romero will step in to face Luke Rockhold. The bout will now be for the interim middleweight championship.

ESPN’s Brett Okamoto first reported the news.

“I’m beyond disappointed that I’m unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia,” Whittaker was quoted by ESPN as saying. “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.”

The nature of champ Whittaker’s injury was not revealed.

Whittaker was promoted to undisputed champion when Georges St. Pierre chose to vacate the 185lb title he won from Michael Bisping at UFC 217. He will now face the winner of Romero vs. Rockhold in a title unification bout sometime later this year.

The twenty-seven year old defeated Romero at UFC 213 to win the middleweight interim title. Whittaker (19–4) has won eight straight bouts in the UFC.

Romero, meanwhile, had been scheduled to face David Branch at UFC Orlando (UFC on FOX 28) on February 24. Branch will now be looking for a new opponent. Prior to losing to Whittaker at UFC 213, Romero (12–2) had won all eight of his UFC appearances.

Rockhold (16–3), meanwhile, a former middleweight champion in both the UFC and Strikeforce, is coming off a win over Branch at UFC Fight Night 116. That marked his first fight back after being knocked out by Michael Bisping at UFC 199.

UFC 221 takes place at the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia on February 11.