Robert Whittaker made his first official appearance as the UFC’s middleweight champion at the UFC 221 press conference in Perth on Tuesday morning where he claimed he was happy to become the undisputed champion following Georges St-Pierre’s vacation of the title.
According to the New Zealander, as an “objective-driven fighter”, he is happy to have a fight scheduled after some uncertainty following GSP’s capture of the title at UFC 217.
“With the UFC anything can happen really,” said Whittaker.
“There was no clear cut matchup for me at any point in the last six months so I’m just happy to have closure. I’m just happy to know that Georges has stepped down, I’ve taken the title and I’m ready to defend it come February against Luke.
“Yeah, it’s just good to know what we’re doing. I’m a very objective-driven bloke, so to have a goal in mind and to have something to do is very important to me.”
Forecasting their Feb. 11 clash, former champion Rockhold revealed that he has been impressed with Whittaker since he moved up to the middleweight ranks and highlighted range as the most important factor in their matchup.
“Rob’s come up to 185 and I watched him when I fought out here,” said Rockhold.
“I think it was his first venture to 185 and he fought on my undercard in Sydney. He came in explosive and powerful, he carried the weight well and that’s what he does – he’s got sharp hands, he’s got power and he covers the gap well.
“It’s up to me to keep pushing him outside that gap. He’s going to come in, I’m going to use my range and pick him off from the outside and he’s gonna close that distance.
“The problem is, if he closes it too much he’s back into my world again. I think he’s got a small room.”
“That sounds like fun,” remarked Whittaker in reply.
“It’s like he said. We’re not playing games out there. It’s do or die out there and that’s what makes it so thrilling for everyone to watch.
“That’s why people come, that’s why the stadium is going to be sold out and the pay-per-views are going to be through the roof. They’re going to be watching that game of inches and the strategies involved.
“I don’t think Luke needs the inspiration to take the belt. Like he said, he’s been the champ before. He knows the taste and he’s done it before.”
“I really do look forward to getting in there with the best Luke Rockhold and testing myself – testing my skills and testing my caliber. I think that’s the goal of every fighter, to keep chasing their limits and pushing those boundaries.”