Robert Whittaker (right) takes the fight to American Derek Brunson.
Robert Whittaker (right) takes the fight to American Derek Brunson. TRACEY NEARMY

Aussie fighter closes in on UFC title

UFC: Robert Whittaker will get the chance to become Australia's first UFC champion after being named for an interim middleweight title fight to be staged in Las Vegas in July.

No.1 ranked contender Yoel Romero will meet Whittaker in a battle at 185-pounds as the new co-main event at UFC 213 on July 8, with the winner being crowned the new interim champion and earning first crack at the full title of injured champion Michael Bisping.

The fight will come before the main event bout of Amanda Nunes vs top-ranked contender Valentina Shevchenko, for the women's bantamweight title.

The announcement comes after Bisping revealed a nagging knee injury would keep him on the sidelines for a few more months. Bisping last defended his title in October 2016 and indications are he is not expected to return until the latter half of the year.

It's also been long rumoured that the UFC is trying to bolster the pay-per-view card taking place at the end of International Fight Week in Las Vegas and this fight will certainly fit the bill.

Romero (13-1) will get his first shot at UFC gold after tearing through the middleweight division with a perfect 8-0 record inside the Octagon. The former Olympic silver medallist most recently dispatched former champion Chris Weidman to earn his title shot.

Whittaker (18-4) has also gone undefeated as a middleweight in the UFC with six straight wins, including a stunning knockout over former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza in his last fight.


UFC president Dana White rates Australian Robert Whittaker highly.
UFC president Dana White rates Australian Robert Whittaker highly. Jason Silva/AGIF

UFC president Dana White flagged the match over the weekend, having told FOX Sports Australia earlier this month that Whittaker was a potential champion.

"The guy' an absolute stud," White said.

"The way that he went in and handled Jacare, and my big thing was, this fight's gonna be determined by the first clinch, and sure enough, in that first clinch, right there in the first round, Robert Whitaker handled himself unbelievably in a clinch with Jacare.

"They went to the ground, he gets back to his feet and he did what Robert Whittaker does, man. He started letting those hands go.

"That kid's got absolute destructive power in both of his hands. When this guy starts punching, man, you're in big trouble. He looked great, and he's a super good guy. He has all the tools to be the first world champion out of Australia, in the UFC."

Whittaker vs Romero has filled a gap in the UFC 213 card, with another championship fight finally confirmed as cancelled today.

The highly-anticipated match between bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and former teammate TJ Dillashaw has been canned.

Garbrandt suffered a back injury several weeks ago and despite the UFC's best attempts to get him ready for the July 8 card, he would have been able to recover in time.

Garbrandt even flew to Germany last week to receive treatment on his back in hopes that he'd be able bounce back in time but he was forced to pull out of the fight with Dillashaw.

News Corp Australia

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