Sports

Yoel Romero to replace middleweight champ Robert Whittaker at UFC 221

Yoel Romero to replace middleweight champ Robert Whittaker at UFC 221

The middleweight division had recently rid itself of interim chaos as Whittaker became the undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre officially vacated the title following his victory over Michael Bisping at UFC 217.

Many thought that, following roughly a year-and-a-half of uncertainty during Bisping's chaotic reign, the division was finally set for some clarity and progression towards the norm with the champion facing a rightful number one contender, and indeed the decision to have Whittaker headline UFC 221 was an obvious one considering his ties to Australia.

He will now face the victor of Romero versus Rockhold in a unification bout, with all customers who purchased tickets for UFC 221 eligible for a refund.

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.

Whittaker was then declared the undisputed middleweight champion but now that he's been sidelined another interim belt will be introduced with the victor of Rockhold vs. Romero expected to then unify the title later in 2018. Prior to losing to Whittaker at UFC 213, Romero (12-2) had won all eight of his UFC appearances. He will now face the victor of Romero vs. Rockhold in a title unification bout sometime later this year.

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Taking to social media shortly after the news broke, Whittaker issued an apology to the fans.

"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 in the release. This card meant so much to me and I'm devastated for not being able to fight. "All the best to Yoel and Luke for their fight and I'll be waiting..."

Still on the card, however, is southern-hemisphere heavyweight hero Mark Hunt, his fellow Kiwi Luke Jumeau, and Australians Tai Tuivasa, Tyson Pedro, Jake Matthews, Damien Brown, Alexander Volkanovski, and Rob Wilkinson.


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