Robert Whittaker has promised his first headliner spot at UFC Fight NightMelbourne won’t be his last after the Aussie and his opponent Derek Brunson were bumped up to the main event early this morning, after Luke Rockhold was forced out of his clash with Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza’ through injury.
Rockhold has reportedly suffered a sprain to his ACL, scuppering his hopes of securing a rematch with current champion Michael Bisping early in 2017 and ruling him out of the UFC Fight Night 101 rematch with Souza on November 26th.
But one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure, and in steps Whittaker on home soil for his first main event. One he hopes will be the first of many.
“This is a massive honour and it won’t be the last time I main event a UFC event, either,” Whittaker says. “I’m filling in. I know that. But it’s still a real honour and privilege for me.
“I was actually still in bed when Joe (Silva) phoned to say I’d been given the main event. For me it doesn’t really matter if it’s last fight, first fight, whatever. It’s still the same fight. But in saying that, I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. And I’ve never been more confident with a preparation.”
Whittaker has been on a tear winning five straight taking him to the upper echelons of the 185lb division thanks to wins over Uriah Hall, Rafael Natal and Brad Tavares.
Having already fought in Australia and, specifically, Melbourne before the main event slot is well deserved and an opportunity he’s not taking lightly. The Aussie feels a win here could catapult him into title contention.
He added: “Like all camps you have your ups and downs. But now a few weeks out it really feels like I’m doing everything exactly right. I know it’s only a matter of time before I get a shot at that world title.”
Meanwhile, Rockhold took to his Facebook page to offer his apologies but also insist he’s determined not to let this setback to hinder his pursuit of a championship return in 2017.
“Right now there is nothing I want more than to get back into the cage and do what I love most,” posted Rockhold. “Unfortunately, due to an injury to my left knee I had to withdraw from the fight. I apologize to the UFC, Jacare and most importantly to the fans. I will be back better than ever in pursuit of the belt.”