Middleweight champion Michael Bisping is still recovering from knee surgery and unable to defend his title. While Bisping is on the mend, top 185-pound contender Yoel Romero and No. 3 ranked Robert Whittaker will fight for the interim championship at UFC 213 on July 8. UFC president Dana White announced the UFC 213 shake-up on Tuesday.
UFC 213 is headlined by a women’s bantamweight title fight between champion Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. The fight card was originally supposed to featured bantamweight champion Cody Garbandt taking on former titleholder TJ Dillashaw, but a lingering back injury forced Garbrandt off the fight card. The interim middleweight title bout will now serve as the fight card’s co-main event.
Bisping defended his belt for the first time in October 2016 by defeating Dan Henderson at UFC 204. He was expected to face former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre next, but St-Pierre announced that he wouldn’t be able to return until November.
The fight promotion wasn’t wiling to put the division on hold for that long and nixed those plans. White announced on May 11 that Romero would fight Bisping instead. Bisping stated on a recent episode of his podcast that he wouldn’t be ready to fight in July. At that point, Whittaker was lined up against Romero and an interim title was created.
Romero is riding an eight-fight winning streak. He knocked out former champion Chris Weidman in his last outing at UFC 205 in November. Whittaker is on a seven-fight winning streak and knocked out Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in his last fight in April. The winner is expected to face Bisping in a title unification bout when Bisping is fully recovered.