Without a shadow of a doubt, it is becoming abundantly clear that Robert Whittaker desires his title. At the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight event that took place earlier this month, Israel Adesanya successfully defended his championship and reclaimed it for himself after a shot break. “The Last Stylebender” became the promotion’s first two-time 185-pound champion after knocking out Alex Pereira in the second round. First, Whittaker dominated the category before Adesanya became the champion.
Just over a year ago, at UFC 271 in February 2022, “The Reaper” made another attempt at winning the title by defeating Adesanya. Unfortunately for Whittaker, Adesanya was awarded the victory via unanimous decision. In his only fight since losing to Adesanya, Whittaker defeated Marvin Vettori by unanimous decision.
“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.”
Since Adesanya and Pereira’s rivalry rekindled last year, Whittaker’s outlook has shifted slightly. Since the Australian fighter was stripped of his title, he has made it abundantly clear that he will do whatever it takes and win against whoever it takes to win back his title. Adesanya’s victory over Pereira may have made his next shot at the title less likely, but in the long run, that was exactly what he wanted.
“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.”