Robert Whittaker believes he was winning and in control of his fight with Israel Adesanya — until he simply got caught.
In the UFC 243 main event Saturday night in Melbourne, Australia, Whittaker lost the UFC middleweight title to Adesanya by second-round knockout. “The Reaper” said he felt “really good” early on in the fight.
“Me and him are two of the best strikers in the world,” Whittaker said at the UFC 243 post-fight press conference. “It was tit for tat. And then I got caught. It happens.”
Whittaker saw his nine-fight winning streak come to an end in the fight. It marked his first loss since 2014 and in the middleweight division. Adesanya, meanwhile, improved to 18-0 as a pro.
Adesanya is known for his flashy striking style, but Whittaker said he wasn’t “in awe” of Adesanya’s standup game.
“I think I surprised him with my striking,” Whittaker said. ... “I was confident in my own (striking), and I was having great success with my own.”
Whittaker believes he has the tools to defeat Adesanya — it just has to come on the right night. He said he is “obviously” open to a rematch, but is more than willing to get back into the cage and earn another title shot.
“I’d like to see, on another night, us go at it again,” Whittaker said. “Because I think I can do that. That’s what’s so disappointing, I guess — I feel that I can beat him, I have the skill-set to beat him. But we clashed heads, and I came up second best. I got caught.”
Whittaker, who hadn’t fought since a June 2018 win over Yoel Romero, hopes to be a lot more active moving forward.
“I didn’t plan those long gaps,” he said. “It’s not like I had a calendar and was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna take from October to December off.’ It was injury and illness that kept me from the Octagon. Thank God, I’m not injured. I’m healthy. I’m good. I’m gonna go home, see my family, get back to training, do my podcast, and I’m coming back. I’m coming back to work in a couple months.
“This is my first loss in the division. Trust me when I say I’m not going anywhere.”