After Saturday’s UFC 254 co-main event in Abu Dhabi, Whittaker remained at the front of the middleweight contenders’ line. He won a convincing unanimous decision against Jared Cannonier, a fighter that many had pegged as the next challenger for Adesanya’s UFC championship.
Whittaker is now 2-0 since dropping the middleweight title to Adesanya at UFC 243 last October and he’s well aware that they could see one another in the cage again in the near future. Having experienced Adesanya’s skills firsthand, Whittaker was highly respectful of “The Last Stylebender” even as he suggested that he will show something new in a second go-around.
“He’s a tough fight, man,” Whittaker said. “I’m not stoked to fight him. He’s a hard fight. He’s so good and he only looked better in his last fight, and the fact that he beat me once already. But I feel like I’ve got a couple of tricks I can roll out. I feel like I can play it differently this time.
“Honestly, I know he’s trying to do everything else and good on him to do that, I’m not thinking about him. Maybe me and him shouldn’t think about it just for a little bit. He can go up to light heavy or heavyweight, it doesn’t bother me. My plans are Christmas, my baby, and then hopefully our timelines line up then.”
Adesanya has teased a potential move up to 205 pounds, either to face UFC legend Jon Jones or current light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. However, Adesanya has also said that he wants to establish himself as a fighting champion at 185 pounds.
While Adesanya and the UFC figure out what’s next for him, Whittaker is content to sit back and see how it all shakes out. He’s sworn to spend the holiday season with his family and dedicate his full attention to another child that he and his wife are expecting in January. At the moment, Whittaker is targeting March or April as a possible return date.
One thing Whittaker doesn’t plan to do is mouth off in public to keep his spot in the rankings while he waits.
“My old man drilled into me, don’t be a sellout,” Whittaker said. “If you have to sell out, don’t do it. Don’t be something you’re not. I’d rather be myself as a bricklayer than someone else as a multimillionaire.
“Be yourself, you can’t give in. You cannot break your own values. You need to be you.”
If the division is shaken up over the next six months or Adesanya does end up changing weight classes, Whittaker isn’t stressing over the possibilities. Somewhere down the road, he sees himself crossing paths with Adesanya one more time.
“I do want to fight him one day,” Whittaker said. “Whether it’s in my career or in the parking as two old fellas one day. I feel like our paths will cross again and as a warrior it’s something I need to do.
“But I’m not worried about who I fight next. My whole mentality with this game is you line ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em down. I’m pretty good at that.”