Robert Whittaker has revealed in an interview with ESPN that he turned down a rematch with Israel Adesanya at UFC 263 because he needed more time to recover following his unanimous decision win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24.
The UFC wanted to book the fight for June 12, but ‘The Reaper’ said it would have been ‘impossible’ for him to accept the matchup on such short notice.
Marvin Vettori will go on to challenge Adesanya for the middleweight instead, and Whittaker has no problem with the UFC’s decision.
“More or less, I was offered the fight about an hour after my fight with Gastelum. There was just no way, physically, I could do that,” Whittaker told ESPN. “Not only do I have injuries from that last fight to deal with, I have to fly home to Australia, and then two weeks in [mandatory] isolation. I have to see how my body was feeling, and then I’d have to prepare; all by June. It was impossible.”
Whittaker feels Adesanya wanted the fight on short notice because it would have given him the advantage, but the former UFC middleweight champion is more than happy to sit out and wait while the latter defends his title against Vettori.
“I can see what Izzy is trying to do,” Whittaker, who was knocked out by Adesanya at UFC 243, told Brett Okamoto. “He’s trying to get me to accept the fight injured, on short notice, with all odds against me, but there was just no way I could get there physically,” Whittaker said. “I do want that fight, and my next fight will be for the title. It has to be. He was just really adamant about fighting on that date and I can’t do it. I’m happy to fight the winner after.”
Whittaker, who rebounded from his 2019 loss to Adesanya with three straight victories over Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and now Gastelum, will presumably take on the winner of Adesanya vs. Vettori this fall.