Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker will not be making his return to the Octagon in March. According to Ariel Helwani of ESPN, Whittaker is out of his scheduled fight against Jared Cannonier at UFC 248 due to personal reasons.
Helwani added that the UFC would like to keep Cannonier on the card but no opponent has been found to replace Whittaker as of now. There was no further information given as to why Whittaker is out of the fight.
Robert Whittaker is out his March 7 UFC 248 fight against Jared Cannonier due to undisclosed personal reasons, sources say. UFC efforting to keep Cannonier on the card but no opponent locked in yet, I’m told.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 15, 2020
The scheduled fight against Cannonier was supposed to be Whittaker’s return since losing the middleweight belt to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 back in October. Before losing to Adesanya, Whittaker was on a 9-fight winning streak including back-to-back wins over Yoel Romero, and had been undefeated in the middleweight division since jumping up from welterweight.
As for his opponent Cannonier, the fight against Whittaker was going to be the biggest one to date for “Killa Gorilla” who is riding a three-fight winning streak. With wins over David Branch, Anderson Silva, and Jack Hermansson, Cannonier grabbed the attention of many in the middleweight division, including the champion, Adesanya.
While there is no word as to who could potentially face Cannonier as a replacement to Whittaker, UFC President Dana White recently spoke on the future of Darren Till who is looking for a fight. White said Till could possibly face “one of the top guys” in London or Vegas. With UFC 248 being scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, replacing Whittaker with Till could be the direction the UFC decides to go in.
The top of the middleweight division currently awaits news regarding Adesanya’s first title defense, although he’s said himself that a fight against Yoel Romero is what’s next for him, but with contenders like Cannonier, Till, Kelvin Gastelum, and Paulo Costa, there’s plenty of options for the champion.
The fight between Whittaker and Cannonier could have been a potential title eliminator, and depending on who replaces Whittaker, those stakes could still remain at UFC 248 in March.
Who would you like to see Jared Cannonier face now that Robert Whittaker is out?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/15/2020