Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who dropped his 185-pound title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 back in late 2019, has roared back to capture three straight wins over Top 10 competition, earning a second crack at the defending “Stylebender.”
And despite his latest hot streak, Adesanya believes the combat sports community is grossly overestimating “The Reaper” ahead of their pay-per-view (PPV) rematch, which tops the UFC 271 card this weekend (Sat., Feb. 12, 2022) inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
“Yes, way too much,” Adesanya said on YouTube (transcribed by MMA Fighting). “To the point where I’m like, ‘Did he invent a new move or something? Did he reinvent the jab?’ He improved, yes, but not to the point where people have blown it up to be. The proportion. I think maybe people just have low standards, that’s all. I just have high standards... He played the game very well against all three opponents, I feel. At the same time, you put those three guys together, they don’t amount to me. The way they play the game, it’s not the same. So like I said, (Georges St-Pierre impression) ‘I was not impressed by your performance.’”
In the two years since they last fought, Adesanya (21-1) made three successful title defenses, including last June’s unanimous decision victory over middleweight rival Marvin Vettori. Whittaker (23-5) was last seen outpointing 185-pound bruiser Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24 back in April 2021.
“I saw a little snippet of what he was saying. It’s like he finds it hard to swallow,” Adesanya continued. “It’s a hard pill for him to swallow. He’s admitting it, he’s saying the right things, but he’s not believing it. He’s ego won’t let him and that’s his downfall. His ego. People tried to say that about me leading to the first fight, ‘Oh, he’s too egotistical. He’s not humble like Whittaker.’ I’m like, bro, stop. I am extraordinarily humble. He’s got this new found mental clarity and it would help him positively if it was true. I just don’t buy into it.”
We’ll find out this weekend in “The Lone Star State.”