Illness forced Whittaker out of UFC 221

UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has revealed that chickenpox caused him to pull out of his title defence against Luke Rockhold.

Whittaker was due to face Rockhold at UFC 221, in Perth, next week, but was forced to withdraw. He was replaced by his last opponent, Yoel Romero, who will fight Rockhold for the interim strap.

It was a blow to the 27-year-old after being promoted to official champion, following Georges St-Pierre’s decision to relinquish the belt.

“I got a really bad infection and the infection and the antibiotics just took it out of me,” he told Submission Radio.

“I was really struggling to recover and then right at the end of the infection, I got the chickenpox [laughs]. That’s why I’ve got the scars all over my face. It was an absolute mess. If anyone’s had it, it’s just horrible [laughs].”

Whittaker will be at ringside for the Romero vs Rockhold encounter and is excited to face the winner.

“When they offered this outcome to me I was delighted,” he said.

“The number one and number two contenders get to bash each other, and I was just like, ‘Yes. Good. Please.’ As a fan of this sport, I would’ve paid to watch this fight.

“This is a fight I think people want to see, and I’m more than happy to bash Yoel again or I’m more than happy to give it to Rockhold as well. We’ll see.”