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Morning Report: Robert Whittaker hoping to fight Israel Adesanya: ‘He isn’t as good as he thinks he is’

Robert Whittaker will answer questions at the UFC 213 post-fight press conference.
Robert Whittaker
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Robert Whittaker does not intend to be sidelined for long.

Earlier this month, Robert Whittaker was supposed to headline UFC 234, defending his middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum. Instead, the day before the fight, Whittaker suffered a hernia and a collapsed bowel that required emergency surgery and forced him out of the fight. With his return up in the air, the UFC quickly booked Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya for an interim title fight at UFC 236 in April, and Whittaker says he’d like to unify the belt as quickly as possible after that.

“I’m looking to fight the winner of that,” Whittaker said on his Grange TV podcast. “I guess, in terms of timelines and dates, it will be a month - two or three months after that. Three months maximum, one month minimum. That’s the kind of timeline I’m looking for.”

Whittaker didn’t stop there, though. The middleweight champion questioned the validity of having the fourth and fifth ranked fighters compete for an interim title, as opposed to any of the fighters above them, something he puts down to the UFC trying to shoot Adesanya to a title shot instead of having him go through the same kind of gauntlet he had to.

“When you look at the poster it says Gastelum vs Adesanya, four versus five, but one, two, three aren’t in the equation,” Whittaker said. “Gastelum’s a great fight for [Adesanya] to fight. I would’ve liked to see him fight Romero or Rockhold or Weidman. I think they’d give him a lot of trouble.”

Adesanya is 5-0 in the UFC since making his debut last year, but he has yet to face a top-five opponent. What he has done is put on a number of highlight reel finishes and shown a talent for promotion that has many pegging him as the next star in MMA. But Whittaker disagrees. The middleweight champion believes Adesanya isn’t as good as he thinks he is and his fight against the aging Anderson Silva proved it.

“I think that Adesanya isn’t as good as he thinks he is,” Whittaker said. “I think he’s very good - very, very good - and I have a lot of respect for his skillset, 100 percent. He’s a dangerous guy. But I don’t think the pedestal that he’s on is as high as everyone else thinks it is, as he thinks it is. I think his fight with Anderson Silva was the first time his stand-up capabilities were put to the test with someone with similar stand-up capabilities. . .

“I don’t think Adesanya’s striking is as good as he believes. it is. It’s very good. I’m not saying his striking is bad, it’s very, very good - but I just don’t think it’s as good as he thinks it is. The times Adesanya’s looked very good is against people that don’t have the greatest striking.”

Adesanya was an accomplished kickboxer before making the jump to the UFC, winning a number of tournaments and amassing an 81-5-1 record. But Whittaker is quick to note that the UFC is not kickboxing, saying that being technical is not the same as being dangerous in MMA.

“We’re not kickboxing,” Whittaker argued. “The difference in striking in the Octagon as opposed to the ring is night and day. Comparing the two isn’t applicable. Yes, he can take a lot of the skillsets over and they’re very transferable, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same.

“Having very high technical skills in striking, isn’t the same as being a very dangerous striker. If you were to look at Romero, he is not technically great at stand-up. He’s not known for his technical grace with his standup, [but] most of his wins have been knockouts. He hits very hard. He hits like a truck. He’s a dangerous striker. He would have to be one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. Most of his wins come by knockout standing up - punches, flying knees - he’s a very, very dangerous striker but you can’t say he’s super technical, because he’s not.

“Adesanya is dangerous and technical, but he’s not the same as Romero. He’s not super, super dangerous.”

If Adesanya gets by Kelvin Gastelum, Whittaker will get a chance to prove his words true, and at this point, that’s what the middleweight champion is hoping for. Of course, if things go the other way, Whittaker is fine with that too. After all, he already trained for Gastelum once.

“You know I’ve never cared who I fight,” Whittaker concluded. “Literally anyone who had a win streak or who was the next prospect, the UFC threw at me. [But] if I had to say, I’d like to fight Adesanya. One, he’s been asking for it. And two, I like that fight, I like the way he fights. He’s a distance fighter, he likes to utilize his striking, which agrees with me. I’m a distance fighter, but I close distance really fast and I hit very hard. I think I’d surprise him. It is what it is.

“In saying that, fighting Gastelum isn’t bad. I put in a lot of work already for that guy.”


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Satoshi Ishii (19-8-1) vs. Fernando Rodrigues Jr. (12-4); KSW 47, March 23.

Wilson Reis (23-9) vs. Alexandre Pantoja (20-3); UFC 236, April 13.

Paige VanZant (8-4) vs. Poliana Botelho (7-2); UFC 236, April 13.

Elias Theodorou (16-2) vs. Derek Brunson (18-7); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Sarah Moras (5-4) vs. Leah Letson (5-1); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Arjan Bhullar (8-1) vs. Juan Adams (5-0); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Aiemann Zahabi ( 7-1) vs. Vince Morales (8-3); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Brian Kelleher (19-10) vs. Mitch Gagnon (12-4); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Andrew Sanchez (10-4) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Brad Katona (8-0) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (8-4); UFC Ottawa, May 4.

Anderson Silva (34-9, 1 NC) vs. Jared Cannonier (11-4); UFC 237, May 11.

Bethe Correia (10-3-1) vs. Irene Aldana (9-4); UFC 237, May 11.

Jake Hager (1-0) vs. T.J. Jones (1-1); Bellator 221, May 11.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



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