Robert Whittaker wants his title shot.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight title returned to the possession of Israel Adesanya at UFC 287 earlier this month (April 8, 2023). “The Last Stylebender” became the promotion’s first two-time titleholder at 185 pounds with his second-round knockout (punches) win over Alex Pereira (watch highlights). Before Adesanya was a champion in reign No. 1, Whittaker ruled as the division’s top dog.
“The Reaper” challenged for gold again in his rematch with Adesanya just over one full year ago at UFC 271 in Feb. 2022. Unfortunately for Whittaker, Adesanya took home the unanimous decision nod (watch highlights). Adesanya remains the only man to defeat Whittaker at Middleweight and the former champion put on a clinic, defeating Marvin Vettori via unanimous decision in his lone fight since the last Adesanya encounter.
“I guess I’m in a position now where they’re happy to have that rematch with him and I understand three attempts,” Whittaker told The MMA Hour. “I’ve seen the things like, ‘Oh, Rob’s just gonna keep fighting him. Rob just give it up. Blah, blah, blah.’ You see the stuff and it’s like, yeah, but what do you want me to do? I can’t quit. I’m in this game and he’s got the belt and I want to win. I want to take that from him. I’m going to beat him.
“‘Izzy’ fought Pereira four times over the course of his career,” he added. “I’m only gonna need to fight ‘Izzy’ three times because I will beat him that next time. I’m 100 percent confident that I will beat him that next time.”
Whittaker’s mentality has changed a bit as the rivalry between Adesanya and Pereira re-emerged last year. Since losing the belt, the Australian has made it clear he’ll do whatever it takes and beat whoever is necessary to regain the title. Even though his chances of fighting for the title next feel less likely because Adesanya beat Pereira, it’s actually what he wanted in the grand scheme.
“I really want to fight ‘Izzy’ again. I really want to fight him specifically,” Whittaker said. “I wanna beat him for the title. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to beat him in particular until it could have gone another way. Until there was a possibility I could have been fighting Pereira for the belt. Which is funny because I know it’s like, ‘Do you want to fight him or fight for the title?’ I always said it doesn’t matter, I’ll fight anyone I just want to fight for the belt.
“In actuality, watching that fight and what could have been, I realized no, I want to fight Israel,” he concluded. “I’m going to beat ‘Izzy’ the next time we come across. It’s funny how important that stood out to me.”