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After huge win, Robert Whittaker says he’s on his title run: ‘I want that belt’

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UFC on FOX 24 photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If there was a breakout performance award handed out by the UFC, Robert Whittaker surely would have won it by defeating the heavily favored Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC on FOX 24 on Saturday night.

As it stands, Whittaker still took home $50,000 as a Performance of the Night bonus. More importantly, he leapfrogged one of the division’s top contenders and positioned himself in the small queue of contenders at 185.

Whittaker made it seven straight victories in Kansas City, scoring a resounding TKO over Souza on the main card at the Sprint Center. Yet though “Jacare” was receiving most of the love heading into the fight — especially from Las Vegas, who made the 26-year old Australian a sizable underdog — Whittaker didn’t take umbrage at the fact.

“The oddsmakers don’t know who I am,” he said during Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I live in Australia, I train out of there, I stay down there, I’m so far away from everywhere else. I don’t think ‘Jacare’ overlooked me, either. He’s a veteran of the sport, all props to him. He would have taken me seriously from day one, but it’s just a hell of a win.”

Now that Whittaker has made an emphatic statement on a nationally televised stage, the next question is: What now? Current middleweight champion Michael Bisping is locked into a title defense against Georges St-Pierre at a date still to be determined, which means a title shot may not be imminently forthcoming.

Whittaker — who was supposed to face Bisping at UFC 193 in Melbourne back in Nov. 2015, before Bisping withdrew with an injury — says he wouldn’t mind getting his mulligan. But really, he just wants to work his way to a title, no matter who is holding it.

“That’s a discussion I’ll have with my corners and stuff, but I’m on my title run,” he said. “I’m on my run and I want that belt. Bisping owes me a fight, but if he’s tied up, or if he loses it, or whatever, I want that belt. Wherever it goes, I want it.”

One fighter who volunteered to step in and fight Whittaker next was former 185-pound champion Luke Rockhold, who told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on Saturday night that he was impressed with Whittaker’s performance and desired that fight at UFC 213 in July.

When it was brought up to Whittaker in the post-fight presser, it was the first he’d heard of it.

“It’s news to me,” he said, smiling. “It’s cool, but it’s too fresh. I want to get back home to my kids, and to see my wife. Let me see my family first. [That]’s a bit rushed, it’s too much to process at once.”

Since beginning his win streak back in 2014 against Mike Rhodes in Auckland, Whittaker has taken home four different end of the night bonuses, including three performance of the night honors, and one fight of the night (against Clint Hester).

He has finished four of his last six opponents, including Derek Brunson in his previous fight heading into the bout with Souza.