While there have been several fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster chomping at the bit to get their hands on former Middleweight champion Michael Bisping — even before he was champ — Robert Whittaker wasn’t in much of a hurry to face “The Count.”
And it wasn’t out of fear, but rather respect. Indeed, the current 185-pound kingpin recently reflected on Bisping’s career after the brash Brit announced his retirement from the hurt business, saying he’s glad the two never competed against one another because at the end of the day Robert was a fan of his.
“I think he’s a true warrior. I really do. He’s done it all. He’s lost, he’s won, and he’s become champion. He’s a true test of endurance and determination. I really do, I think a lot of people can learn a thing or two watching his career,” said Whittaker during a recent media conference call via MMA Fighting.
Bisping and Whittaker were in line to face one another at UFC 193 but the bout was scratched after “The Count” suffered an injury. After Robert won the interim division title at UFC 213 by defeating Yoel Romero, they were in line to fight in a title unification match before a knee injury sidelined “The Reaper” for half of 2017, paving the way for Georges St-Pierre to face and defeat Bisping at UFC 217.
For Robert, it was a blessing in disguise because he wasn’t really eager to face a man he was a fan of.
“In terms of fighting him, from one fighter to another, there’s a lot of respect in terms of wanting to fight each other. There would’ve been a lot of respect there and a lot of honor earned, but I’m happy not to have fought him, just due to the fact that I’ve always watched him and, if I’m going to be honest with myself, I’m a bit of a fan of his, to be honest,” he concluded.
In the end, Whittaker didn’t get the opportunity to face “Rush,” either, as the former Welterweight champion vacated his strap to tend to his battle with colitis. As a result, Whittaker was dubbed the official middleweight champion.
His first defense, ironically, will be against “Soldier of God” at this weekend’s (Sat., June 9, 2018) UFC 225 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Chicago, Illinois. For more on that stacked fight card click here.