The 40-year-old Romero comes into the fight off the back of an interim title fight defeat to the aforementioned Whittaker in July of last year, but prior to that he had been on an eight-fight winning streak that had seen him defeat the likes of Chris Weidman, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Lyoto Machida and Tim Kennedy.
Fans will be able to request full refunds of purchased tickets for UFC 221, scheduled for February 11 at Perth Arena.
Rockhold (16-3), however will remain on the card and face Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title in the main event.
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Some unfortunate news struck the MMA leader today as Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) was forced to pull out of UFC 221 headliner due to an undisclosed injury.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight title hasn't dropped the interim tag after all.
A UFC official confirmed an ESPN report late Friday night.
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"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 said in an Instagram post on Saturday morning.
Rockhold made his return from injury at UFC Fight Night 116, stepping back in the cage after a 15-month layoff. UFC officials told ESPN that Whittaker will face the victor in a unification bout.
"I'm beyond disappointed that I'm unable to defend the title in my home country of Australia", Whittaker told ESPN. This card meant so much to me and I'm devastated for not being able to fight.
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He defeated former two-division WSOF champion David Branch, the man Romero was originally scheduled to face at UFC on FOX 28 on February 24. Rockhold would lose the gold in his first title defense, which came against Michael Bisping at UFC 199. I wish Yoel and Lucas [Rockhold] the best.