Robert Whittaker issues a statement after pulling out of UFC 248 against Jared Cannonier
Robert "The Reaper" Whittaker was all set for a relatively quick return to the Octagon on March 7th, 2020. His opponent would be the rising contender Jared Cannonier - who has been the dark horse of the Middleweight division since moving down.
For many, it was the perfect match-up. Whittaker was coming off a title loss to Israel Adesanya via a second-round knockout - meaning that there wasn't any claim for him to get a rematch. He accepted that and decided to fight one of the most dangerous men in the division.
However, Ariel Helwani of ESPN revealed on Twitter that Whittaker had pulled out of the fight due to "personal reasons". It wasn't an injury or health issue like it was the past few times, but something else.
Helwani also confirmed that it didn't have anything to do with the Australian Wildfires that affected the country recently. Whittaker issued a statement, apologizing to his supporters and Jared Cannonier for pulling out of the fight. He said:
Hopefully, the two can still meet at some point this year. Helwani mentioned that UFC is still trying to keep Jared Cannonier on the card and is looking for an opponent. If Cannonier manages to get another spectacular victory, there will be no denying a title shot to him.
However, it complicates things as Paulo Costa also has a title shot pending when he returns from injury. Either way, the Middleweight division is going to play out interestingly this coming year. There's a lot of fresh blood and UFC 248 is expected to be headlined by Israel Adesanya against Yoel Romero.
Though Romero lost his last fight (to Paulo Costa), the Brazilian's injury meant that the Champion didn't want to wait and to prove doubters wrong - he called out Romero. He also told Helwani on his MMA show that it's essentially a "done deal".Published 16 Jan 2020, 12:54 IST