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Amanda Nunes pulls out of UFC 213 main event

Amanda Nunes walks onto the stage and up to the scale during the UFC weigh-inon Friday. Nunes pulled out of the UFC 213 main event Saturday morning.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes withdrew Saturday morning from her scheduled UFC 213 main-event title defense, claiming she was too ill while leaving top-rated opponent Valentina Shevchenko greatly dismayed.

UFC President Dana White told The Times in a text message that Brazil’s Nunes pulled out after being cleared to fight by a doctor during a brief hospitalization.

“I’m very upset. I couldn’t believe it [went] to the very last moment, and I’m upset all the fans around the world who were expecting and waiting for this fight,” Shevchenko said as the card began without her at T-Mobile Arena.

In the new main event, Robert Whittaker became the interim middleweight champion by edging Cuba’s top-rated Yoel Romero by unanimous decision, 48-47 on all three scorecards.

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But it was the absence of Nunes-Shevchenko that dominated the night.

“I woke up, was preparing for my fight, feeling this nervousness inside me … I heard then this fight won’t happen and I was like … ,” Shevchenko said as her shoulders slumped. “[Nunes] wanted to cut the weight in very short time and to have this advantage during the week, but it won’t work like this. Our bodies need time to recover.”

Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, said it was the toll of the weight cut along with another unspecified health issue — one fight official not authorized to speak publicly about the situation identified it as “abdominal” — that led to Nunes telling the UFC she was not ready to defend her belt for the second time.

Nunes tweeted as the new main event arrived, “Sorry to all my true fans. The fight will be rescheduled and I will be back 100%.”

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Nunes had stopped former champions Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey in the first round of each of her last two fights. Nunes (14-4) defeated Shevchenko by unanimous decision in March 2016, but Saturday’s fight was listed as a pick ’em by Nevada oddsmakers.

“The doctor cleared her to fight. She said she doesn’t feel good,” White said as Nunes’ withdrawal came. “It is what it is. You can’t make anyone fight.”

Nunes’ decision caused Shevchenko to fume as she expressed interest in fighting Nunes again at UFC 215 in on Sept. 9.

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In the meantime, White said women’s unbeaten strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk was “begging me for the fight.” Bennett said the “health and safety” of Jedrzejczyk was too risky to allow her to take the fight because she was not licensed and lacked medical screening, including a pregnancy test that requires 72 hours to process.

Whittaker’s triumph positions him to next fight champ Michael Bisping of England. Earlier Saturday, heavyweight Alistair Over-eem edged No. 1-rated former champion Fabricio Werdum by majority decision, 28-28, 29-28, 29-28.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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