While some former champions like ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight kingpin, Tyron Woodley, miss having the belt and everything that comes with it, some aren’t as bummed out about not having title of champion anymore.
Which is rather hard to believe because being a title holder for the biggest and most popular mixed martial arts (MMA) organization in the world definitely comes with many perks such as bigger paydays, sponsorship opportunities and other lucrative side gigs.
But, nobody really talks about the cons of being a UFC world champion, something former Middleweight roost ruler, Robert Whittaker, does not miss. During a recent sit-down on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show, “The Reaper” revealed the reason(s) he isn’t too heartbroken after coughing up his title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 (see it).
“Yeah I kind of, I didn’t really like it that much. It’s one of those things that, it comes with some pros, but the cons really starting distracting me. There’s a lot of media, a lot of expectations and a lot of self-imposed pressure. It didn’t agree with me super-well,” Whittaker boldly admitted.
“I’ve always been the sort of guy who just likes to fight. I like the challenge, I like the next opponent. I like to work at just how am going to beat you. Another thing is, I love being the underdog. I love people just writing me off like, ‘You’re going to lose.’ I love the struggle.”
You can probably count on one finger the amount of times a champion goes in as the underdog in the history of combat sports, and not having that was really something that Whittaker apparently missed. In fact, Whittaker says getting the title was never really the endgame, he just wanted to beat everyone in front of him, with the title just being the prize as a result of his work.
“The biggest thing for me is that even through my journey in the division, that was never the objective. The title was never the objective, it was a result of,” he added.
“I just focused one one fight after the next after the next. And I just enjoyed it, loved doing it. I am now hungrier than ever, honestly I can say that. I am excited for the next fight and I am excited for what the future brings for next year. And I just can’t wait to get back in there.”
That’s not to say Whittaker was glad to lose to Adesanya, admitting he’s a bit salty to have to come up short to someone who likes to dance and gloat. Still, Whittaker admits he got over the loss in less than two weeks, and it had a lot to do with the fact that he didn’t put a ton of value in the title itself, so the separation from it didn’t affect him as it would others.
Nevertheless, it’s a rather interesting revelation to say the least, as one would think every MMA fighter out there has the goal of becoming — and staying — UFC champ. That’s not to say the responsibility of it doesn’t come with a bevy of pressures, as Whittaker states.
As for what’s next for “The Reaper,” he is eying a 185-pound showdown against Darren Till at the upcoming UFC event on London, England, on March 21, 2020, inside O2 Arena.