Yoel Romero to replace middleweight champ Robert Whittaker at UFC 221


UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker's homecoming fight in Australia is not going to happen.

While Whittaker vs. Rockhold was a compelling fight, the event features no other worldwide draws outside fan-favorite heavyweight Mark Hunt, who is set to face the unheralded Curtis Blaydes. 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.

Whittaker was scheduled to take on former champion Luke Rockhold in UFC 221 at Perth Arena on February 11.

While Rockhold vs. Romero is a high-quality replacement for Whittaker vs. Rockhold, it is likely to disappoint fans in Perth and those who had planned to travel from other parts of Australia.

"I've been ruled medically unable to compete and won't be able to defend on home soil".

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Robert Whittaker became the UFC middleweight champion when Georges St. Pierre relinquished his belt. "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".

Because of the change in main event, fans will be able to request full refunds of purchased tickets for UFC 221. The former Strikeforce and UFC champ only recently returned to action following a lengthy layoff after his loss to Bisping at UFC 199, defeating former WSOF champ Branch last September.

The switch is yet another unusual turn in the UFC's middleweight division. St-Pierre opted to vacate the championship just 31 days later, citing health reasons.

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