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Whittaker still thinks he’s the man to beat Adesanya: ‘Tonight wasn’t my night, but tomorrow might be’

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Robert Whittaker may be down but he’s not out. In fact, he’s confident he’d come out on top in a rematch with new champ Israel Adesanya.

After nearly a year and a half away from the sport recovering from unfortunate health issues, Australian middleweight champ Robert Whittaker finally returned to the Octagon on Sunday afternoon at UFC 243. Unfortunately for him it was against slick striking phenom Israel Adesanya, and “The Last Stylebender” took Whittaker’s belt with an impressive second round knockout win (watch the highlights here).

It was by no means a blowout. Whittaker fought smart, staying outside of Adesanya’s range and powering in with big shots. That was working well until the end of the first when Adesanya started countering each lunge, catching Whittaker with a big hook thrown in the midst of a Matrix-style dodge.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, but I took the fight to him,” Whittaker said afterward at the post-fight press conference. “Me and him are two of the best strikers in the world, and it was tit for tat, and I got caught. It happens. He beat me tonight, but I’m 28. This is my first loss in the division and trust me when I say I’m not going anywhere. I’m fortunate enough that I didn’t leave the Octagon with any injuries, so I’d love to get back in there and get back to work.”

Whittaker sounded satisfied with his performance and chalked the loss up to the inevitability of defeat at this level of fighting.

”I think I surprised him, because I took the fight to him. I wasn’t in awe of his striking, and I was confident in my own, and I was having great success. I need to work on that check-hook defense, you know? It is what it is, though. We went out there and put our hearts on it, and it happens. Honest to God, you put two of the best strikers in the world together, and that’s what happens. Someone is going to get caught, and unfortunately tonight it was me.”

As for what’s next, Whittaker admitted an immediate rematch wasn’t likely but made it clear he felt like he had what it takes to defeat Adesanya.

”Obviously I’m always down for a rematch, but...” he said with a shrug. “I’d like to see us, on another night, go again, because I think I can do that. And that’s what’s so disappointing, I guess, is that I feel that I can beat him and have the skillsets to beat him. But we clashed heads and I came out second best. I got caught. And hats off to him. He’s a great striker and congratulations. But like I said, I’m going nowhere. I’m still one of the best fighters in the world. And I’ve always claimed that title, as one of the best fighters in the world.”

”When you’re fighting at this high caliber level, every fight is on the line. It’s a tightrope. A lot of the fans don’t realize it, but we’re walking a tightrope. Everybody can beat everybody, and tonight wasn’t my night. But tomorrow might be.”