Robert Whittaker pulls out of UFC 221 as replacement fight is named

LAS VEGAS NV- DECEMBER 12 Yoel Romero celebrates after a middleweight fight against Ronaldo Souza during UFC 194

LAS VEGAS NV- DECEMBER 12 Yoel Romero celebrates after a middleweight fight against Ronaldo Souza during UFC 194

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was slated to face Luke Rockhold in the main event at UFC 221, but it appears that an injury has forced "Bobby Knuckles" to the sidelines.

A former Cuban Olympic silver-medalist wrestler, Romero was scheduled to face Branch at a UFC Fight Night event on February 24.

According to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, who broke the news of Whittaker's withdrawal and the subsequent reshake, Whittaker wanted to compete in spite of his injury woes but was declared medically unfit to do so. In his place, Yoel Romero will step in to face Luke Rockhold.

Fans will be able to request full refunds of purchased tickets for UFC 221, scheduled for February 11 at Perth Arena.

St-Pierre's move allowed Whittaker to exchange his interim title for the undisputed crown, and news of the fight with Rockhold signaled a return to business for a division that had been slowed by chaos for the past year. Prior to losing to Whittaker at UFC 213, Romero (12-2) had won all eight of his UFC appearances.

It remains to be seen if Branch will remain on that card.

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. He beat the aforementioned Branch in his comeback, forcing the veteran to submit to strikes in the second round despite making a shaky start. He will now face the victor of Romero vs. Rockhold in a title unification bout sometime later this year.

"I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve", Whittaker wrote on his Instagram account.

"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia", Whittaker said. This card meant so much to me and I'm devastated for not being able to fight.

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