If things had gone according to plan, UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker would have attempted the first defense of his title against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221, this February 10 in Perth, Australia. Unfortunately, Whittaker was forced out of this contest with health problems, and replaced by his most recent opponent, Yoel Romero, who will battle Romero for the interim belt in the meantime.
At first, the circumstances of Whittaker’s health problems weren’t clear. Now, however, UFC President Dana White has shed some light on the situation, and it doesn’t sound good.
“He had staph infection in his stomach, and from what I understand it wasn’t treated properly, and it started to eat away parts of his organs,” White told TSN. “He’s in serious condition. So it’s going to be a minute before he’s back, I think. Hopefully it turns around quick, but that stuff is life-threatening, if not treated the right way.”
While UFC 221 was certainly hurt by the loss of the Australia native Whittaker, White feels the promotion was able to salvage the card with the new Rockhold vs. Romero interim title main event.
“Luckily we were able to make another great fight,” he said. “It worked out.”
When we last saw Robert Whittaker in action, he out-duelled Yoel Romero to win the UFC interim middleweight title. When Georges St-Pierre defeated Michael Bisping to win the undisputed middleweight title, and subsequently vacated that title, Whittaker was promoted to undisputed champion.
I would like to apologize to all my supporters and fans of MMA for not being able to put on the show you deserve. I’ve been ruled medically unable to compete and wont 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 ill be waiting…
Here’s hoping the champion Robert Whittaker makes a speedy recovery.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/21/2018.