Whittaker withdraws from Perth's UFC 221

Aubrey Yates
January 13, 2018

The newly-crowned middleweight champion was supposed to make the first defence of his 185lbs crown at the promotion's second pay-per-view card of the year, which takes place in Australia on February 11. UFC officials told ESPN that Whittaker will face the victor in a unification bout.

Rockhold (16-3-0) is a former UFC Middleweight Champion, defeating Chris Weidman by fourth round TKO at UFC 194 to become champ.

UFC 221 is set to go down Saturday, February 10, from the Perth Arena in Perth, Australia. The new main event at UFC 221 will still have championship gold resting in the balance as Rockhold vs. Romero will fight for an interim strap with the victor facing Whittaker in a unification bout later in 2018.

Whittaker was an obvious choice to headline the event, as he is the first Australia-based champion in UFC history.

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Rockhold will now face top-ranked contender Yoel Romero, whom Whittaker initially beat for the interim title in the main event of last July's UFC 213, for a new interim title. The match will be for the interim title, and will no doubt follow up with a unification match as soon as Whittaker has healed.

Meanwhile, Rockhold got back to winning ways in September with a submission victory over David Branch, after having lost the middleweight title in a rematch against Michael Bisping back in June of 2016. In November, former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre returned from a four-year absence to win the title against Bisping at UFC 217.

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 opted to vacate the championship just 31 days later, citing health reasons.

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