Robert Whittaker out of UFC 221 title protection attributable to damage

Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold

Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold

The match will be for the interim title, and will no doubt follow up with a unification match as soon as Whittaker has healed.

The development cleared the way for Whittaker, the first Australian champion in UFC history, to make his first title defense in the headliner of the organization's first event in Perth.

Romero, who won an Olympic silver medal in wrestling for Cuba at the 2000 Sydney Games, now gets a chance to claim UFC gold on the other side of the country.

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Yoel Romero, who Whittaker beat at UFC 213 to claim the interim title, will replace him against Rockhold.

The UFC released a statement to thewest.com.au revealing Whittaker had been ruled medically unable to compete after sustaining "several significant injuries".

UFC 221 takes place February 11 at the Perth Arena in Western Australia.

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"I've been ruled medically unable to compete and won't be able to defend on home soil". 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. "With the change in the main event, customers may request a full refund of purchased tickets at point of sale". He is actually coming off a decision loss to Whittaker for the interim title last July.

33-year-old Rockhold, meanwhile, defeated Branch via TKO back in September.

A former Cuban Olympic silver-medalist wrestler, Romero was scheduled to face Branch at a UFC Fight Night event on February 24. It was the former champ's first fight since losing his middleweight belt to Bisping at UFC 199 in June of 2016. Those wins included victories over Chris Weidman, Ronaldo Souza and Lyoto Machida.

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