Khamzat Chimaev has been forced to withdraw from his UFC Saudi Arabia main event against Robert Whittaker.

The rumour mill started early yesterday (June 13) of a potential last minute change to the main event, with the promotion confirming the news later that day.

UFC CEO Dana White gave an update as to the status of the card on social media and announced that one half of the main event would be changing. He said:

“What's up, everybody? So a little news here. Unfortunately, Khamzat Chimaev is out of the fight next weekend in Saudi Arabia, violently and I mean violently ill. So he's going back home and hopefully he gets well soon. The replacement Ikram Aliskerov, who is Ikram Aliskerov? This guy is 15-1. His only loss in 16 fight pro career is to Khamzat Chimaev.

“So this dude is a legit contender, in only his third UFC fight. If he gets a knockout against Robert Whittaker, he'll go into a tie for the longest active UFC knockout streak. He's got 7 1st round finishes, six wins by knockout, five by submission. This guy's finished 11 of 15 wins, 73% finish rate, he's on a seven fight win streak.

“We offered everybody in the division this fight. Nobody would take it except for Robert Whittaker. The main event is bad ass. This should be a great fight and Khamzat, get well soon, my friend.”

Throughout his illustrious career, Whittaker has been no stranger to taking on surging contenders and accepting the Aliskerov fight is once again proof of his old school ‘any one, any place, any time’ mentality. In his 21 fight UFC career, the Australian has never shied away from a challenge and will be looking to show the world that he still deserves to be considered one of the best at 185lbs when he steps in there against the feared Aliskerov.

After a difficult couple of years, which only saw ‘The Reaper’ compete three times in the space of two year, the 33-year-old is clearly looking to make 2024 an active one, with his Saudi Arabia main event marking the second time he will walk to the Octagon this year, already.

Chimaev made an incredible start to his UFC career in 2020, picking up three wins inside the space of two months. Since then, he has struggled to find consistent form. Since his weigh in debacle at UFC 279, which saw Chimaev go from facing Nate Diaz to Kevin Holland in a last-minute change to the card due to ‘Borz’ coming in way over the Welterweight limit, he has only competed once.

Because of the Chimaev withdrawal, Aliskerov has been handed one of the biggest opportunities of his career, so far. Not even in the rankings, if the Russian can find a way to stop Whittaker, in just his third bout in the UFC, he will leapfrog the whole division and cement himself in the upper echelon of the Middleweight division. Since signing with the UFC on the back of a first round submission finish on the 2022 season of the Contender Series, the 31-year-old has faced Phil Hawes and Warlley Alves – finishing both men in the very first round.