AUSTRALIAN middleweight champion and headline act Robert Whittaker has apologised to his fans after being forced to withdraw from Perth’s UFC blockbuster in February.
Whittaker was scheduled to take on former champion Luke Rockhold in UFC 221 at Perth Arena on February 11.
But the 27-year-old has been ruled out of his title defence with an undisclosed injury.
Yoel Romero will take Whittaker’s place in what will now become an interim title bout against Rockhold.
“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’ve been ruled medically unable to compete and won’t be able to defend on home soil.
“This card meant so much to me and I’m devastated for not being able to fight.
“All I can do is focus on getting healthy to come back better than ever. All the best to Yoel and Luke for their fight and I’ll be waiting.”
The Perth event is already a sell-out.
Whittaker became the first undisputed UFC champion from Australia when Canadian Georges St-Pierre vacated the middleweight title in December.
The rest of the card remains the same.
In the co-main event Sydney’s Mark ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt will share the Octagon with No.9 ranked Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes from Chicago.
Western Sydney’s unbeaten first-round knockout sensation Tai ‘Bam Bam’ Tuivasa will trade leather with French fighter Cyril ‘Silverback’ Asker.
Melbourne young gun Jake ‘The Celtic Kid’ Matthews faces Chinese superstar Li ‘The Leech’ Jingliang.
Rising star of the light heavyweight division Tyson Pedro will face steely Russian Saparbek Safarov.
The preliminary bouts get underway at 9am and will see Brisbane’s Damien ‘Beatdown’ Brown against South Korea’s Dong ‘The Maestro’ Hyun Kim.
Tasmanian Rob ‘Razor’ Wilkinson will take on hot new UFC signing Israel ‘Stylebender’ Adesanya, who fights out of New Zealand.
Alexander ‘The Great’ Volkanovski is up against undefeated Canadian, Jeremy ‘JBC’ Kennedy.
Other preliminary bouts on the card are:
Jussier Formiga v Ben Nguyen
Ross Pearson v Mizuto Hirota
Teruto Ishihara v Jose Quinonez
Luke Jumeau v Daichi Abe