UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker returns to the Octagon this weekend to fight the man he last faced, Yoel Romero. The first time around last July, he outlasted the Cuban fighter to claim the UFC interim middleweight championship - and put himself in the crosshairs of the full champion at the time, Michael Bisping.
A bout between Bisping and Whittaker seemed like an eventuality, but injuries to both men and the return of Georges St-Pierre, who eventually beat Bisping before vacating the title, meant that wasn’t likely to happen. And Bisping’s retirement last week officially ended any chance at all.
For his part of things, Whittaker is okay with how it all played out. On a conference call to promote his UFC 225 title defense against Romero (Whittaker is now the full 185-pound champion), he expressed his admiration for Bisping and even stated that he’s perfectly fine with not fighting him because he’s a fan of “The Count” (transcribed by MMA Fighting):
“I think he’s a true warrior. I really do. He’s done it all. He’s lost, he’s won, and he’s become champion. He’s a true test of endurance and determination. I really do, I think a lot of people can learn a thing or two watching his career.
“In terms of fighting him, from one fighter to another, there’s a lot of respect in terms of wanting to fight each other. There would’ve been a lot of respect there and a lot of honor earned, but I’m happy not to have fought him, just due to the fact that I’ve always watched him and, if I’m going to be honest with myself, I’m a bit of a fan of his, to be honest.”
UFC 225 goes down this Saturday night in Chicago.