Robert Whittaker almost had a shot the chase Commonwealth Games gold.

The Auckland-born UFC middleweight champion qualified to represent Australia in wrestling at the Games on the Gold Coast earlier this year, but made the decision to withdraw from the competition.

After being unable to defend his title at a UFC event earlier in the year due to illness, the promotion weren't keen on even the chance he might be unable to defend it against Yoel Romero in Chicago next month.

Whittaker was told if he competed in the Games and was injured, the UFC would strip him of his title. Unwilling to take the risk, he put his quest for Games gold on hold.

Advertisement

"It wasn't tough making the decision as much as it was swallowing it," Whittaker told the Herald. "If it ever comes between what pays the bills around here and my family, and what I do just for honour and because I enjoy it – there's no choice to be made.

"I need to provide for my family, and I had to make the call."

Whittaker had been training hard for the event and was excited about the prospect of being able to represent his country. However, stepping away allowed him to put all his focus on his return to the octagon where he'll meet Cuban Yoel Romero.

Romero was the man Whittaker beat to win the middleweight title. The two met in 2017 to determine an interim title holder while Georges St-Pierre was out due to illness. He was forced to vacate the title, and Whittaker was promoted to undisputed middleweight champion.

The 27-year-old will face his first defence as champion when he meets Romero in June for the second time. Winning by decision in their last encounter, Whittaker was hoping he wouldn't have to leave next month's fight up to the judges.

Whittaker's striking power has been well displayed in his time with the UFC, with knockout wins over the likes of Ronaldo Souza, Derek Brunson and Brad Tavares.
In comparison, Romero also beat Brunson by knockout but needed to go to the scorecards to get the result against Souza and Tavares.