Robert Whittaker cemented himself as the top contender at 185 pounds after winning his third straight, a commanding unanimous decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum at the UFC Vegas 24 event earlier this month in “Sin City.”
But reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, back from his layover at 205 pounds, was planning to compete in June. That means “The Reaper” would have just a couple of weeks to prepare for his championship do-over.
“More or less, I was offered the fight about an hour after my fight with Gastelum,” Whittaker told ESPN. “There was just no way, physically, I could do that. Not only do I have injuries from that last fight to deal with, I have to fly home to Australia, and then two weeks in [mandatory] isolation. I have to see how my body was feeling, and then I’d have to prepare; all by June. It was impossible.”
With Whittaker headed back to Australia to recover, the promotion will send No. 3-ranked middleweight Marvin Vettori into a rematch against Adesanya. “The Italian Dream” lost a close split decision to “The Last Stylebender” in early 2018.
“I can see what Izzy is trying to do,” Whittaker continued. “He’s trying to get me to accept the fight injured, on short notice, with all odds against me, but there was just no way I could get there physically. I do want that fight, and my next fight will be for the title. It has to be. He was just really adamant about fighting on that date and I can’t do it. I’m happy to fight the winner after.”
Adesanya vs. Whittaker 2 is expected for UFC 263 on June 12.