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UFC 221 loses headliner, interim belt revived

Robert Whittaker

As the UFC prepares to offically open up for 2018 business Sunday in St. Louis, they are already dealing with injuries to main events, necessitating the revival of an interim championship they just put in mothballs.

First reported early Saturday morning by ESPN's Brett Okamoto, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker had to withdraw from his title defense against former champion Luke Rockhold at February's UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, due to an undisclosed injury.

With an already thin card and a desire to not cancel a PPV, Rockhold will now fight fellow top contender Yoel Romero for the interim middleweight title. The irony is that Whittaker was the interim middleweight champion after a win over Romero in the summer of 2017 and had the 'interim' dropped when new champion Georges St-Pierre recently announced he would be out for a undisclosed amount of time dealing with colitis.

Whittaker has been out since the Romero fight with injuries.

The UFC was in a tough spot with the Whittaker injury as even by their standards, UFC 221 sported a very thin card with a co-main event of Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes. PPV-wise in North America, there probably won't be a depreciable drop with the change with the only real financial impact being felt at the box office as Whittaker returning to his native country was the big draw.