Robert Whittaker isn’t exactly known for his trash talk outside of the octagon, which is why ‘The Reaper’ felt out of his element in the leadup to his middleweight title bout with Israel Adesanya at UFC 243.
Whittaker lost that fight via second-round KO and, although he suffered a mental burnout in the weeks leading up to the fight, the former UFC middleweight champion says Adesanya’s pre-fight trash talk played a notable factor in the result and was the ‘cherry on top’ of everything else.
“I think it was one more thing that piled on top,” Whittaker said of Adesanya’s pre-fight trash talk in a recent interview with MMA Tonight (transcript via Abhinav Kini of The Body Lock). “One more thing we threw on top of a pile of an already huge clutter mess of what was going on in my head. And certainly, I can’t discount the fact that side of it, as well as the hype and the buildup and the attention me and him were receiving in Australia. … The size of the event, the size of the venue — it was a massive thing. It just blew everything up to bigger proportions.
“I’m certain it did play a factor. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But I think it was the cherry on top, not so much the driving factor.”
"If the word battle was the game, I'm pretty sure I could be decent at that, but that's not the game." @robwhittakermma tells @RJcliffordMMA & @MieshaTate exactly what role Israel Adesanya's trash-talk played in their fight. pic.twitter.com/1VVMbs0twi— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) October 30, 2020
“If the word battle was the game, I’m pretty sure I could be decent at that, but that’s not the game,” he added. “You can easily be led astray. You can lose focus because it feels like you’re doing two jobs instead of one.”
Whittaker has since rebounded from that loss with two consecutive wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier but told the press that he wasn’t stoked about the prospect of another title fight with Adesanya. UFC president Dana White, who was initially interested in booking the rematch, didn’t take kindly to those words and instead decided to pit Adesanya against newly-crowned UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Whittaker says White took his words out of context and claims he wants nothing more than to avenge his loss to Adesanya. The New Zealander is even willing to move up in weight to fight Adesanya for the light heavyweight title should ‘The Last Stylebender’ defeat Blachowicz and become a two-division champion.