Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was felled by an undisclosed injury and forced to withdraw from his Marvin Vettori fight at the upcoming UFC 275 pay-per-view (PPV) event, recently made official for June 11 at Singapore Indoor Stadium in (you guessed it) Singapore.
The decision to put himself first did not sit well with Vettori (or his fans) and Whittaker had to take his lumps for a few days after his announcement. That said, “The Reaper” is not going to jeopardize his place atop the 185-pound leaderboard to satisfy a handful of grumpy MMA fans.
“In the MMA community, I think it’s that mentality that is still lingering in places,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “Because I think we’re finding that where fighting originated from to where it is today, is a big gap. I feel like some people haven’t caught up. It isn’t about ‘I’ll fight anywhere, anytime’ sort of thing anymore. Because the dudes that do that aren’t in the UFC, they’re in your local scene, fighting at the pub. Like, if that’s the type of fight you want, that’s where you got to go to see it. We’re professionals at the highest level, and everything I try to do needs to be professional and at a hundred percent.”
Whittaker (23-6) recently dropped a unanimous decision to Israel Adesanya at UFC 271, the second time he’s come up short against “The Last Stylebender,” but outside of those two performances, “The Reaper” remains undefeated at 185 pounds.
“And it’s not like Vettori’s a chump,” Whittaker said. “I would think it’s like the ultimate show of respect, is that I don’t wanna fight Vettori at anything less than 100 percent. He’s only lost to the same dudes that I have. He’s up the top of the food chain for a reason, and I need to respect that and take that serious. Let’s say I go into the fight half cooked and I lose, no one’s going to care for my excuses. No one. I can’t come out afterwards and be like, ‘yeah, but I had this injury’. No one’s going to give a crap. All they’re going to care about is that I lost. And yeah, I don’t want to live with myself knowing that I could have done better.”
Vettori (18-5-1) has also been bested twice by Adesanya and stands at 8-3-1 inside the Octagon. “The Italian Dream,” 28, is coming off a gritty, unanimous decision victory over Brazilian bruiser Paulo Costa at UFC Vegas 41 last October.
“There’s no surgery, I just need a strengthening block to really just finish up,” Whittaker continued. “And the overarching thing is – because I did all the rehab that I could – the overarching thing that is needed is time. It’s just one of those things, and I ran out of time. Hopefully Vettori hangs around and enjoys some food or something like that, if we can reschedule in a couple of months from now. Because I like that fight, and I want to fight him. I think he’s owed that fight, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”
As of this writing, Vettori remains unbooked.