Reports have emerged indicating who Aussie fighting star Robert Whittaker will be taking on at UFC 221 in Perth in February.
MMA journalist Ariel Helwani has revealed that preliminary talks are underway to book Whittaker (10-2 UFC) up against rangy American fighter Luke Rockhold (6-2 UFC) for the middleweight belt.
However Helwani disclosed that the fight is not confirmed yet.
Preliminary talks are underway to book Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold for UFC 221 in Perth, Western Australia, sources say. Not 100% just yet, though.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 6, 2017
A fight with Rockhold, the third ranked middleweight, would certainly be a step down for Whittaker, who was expecting to fight Canadian superstar Georges St Pierre in his next bout.
However GSP has cited health issues relating to moving up to the 185 pound weight class as a reason why he cannot defend the belt he won from Michael Bisping at UFC 217.
Helwani stated that the UFC's discussions to set up a Rockhold-Whittaker clash are a clear indication they are now giving up on GSP in the division.
This is another indication that, as a result of GSP’s illness, UFC is moving on with its 185 lbs division. Unclear at this time if Whittaker-Rockhold at UFC 221 would be for the interim or official belt, though. Details being finalized imminently. Talks moving in right direction. https://t.co/kANSxJtZvN— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) December 6, 2017
Rumours have circulated suggesting GSP is intimidated by the bigger opponents in the middleweight division, and doesn't like his matchups in fights with the taller and younger fighters.
One report suggested he will now be looking to set up a super-fight with UFC star Conor McGregor at welterweight, (170 pounds).