Robert Whittaker could do without the political side of MMA matchmaking.
It took some time for Whittaker to find his footing in the UFC, first winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes as a welterweight and then seeing mixed results before making a permanent move up to 185 pounds. Once there, Whittaker’s ascent was more straightforward as he won eight straight fights and became the undisputed middleweight champion.
Whittaker lost the title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 and now finds himself with an unclear path to a rematch. A win over fellow contender Jared Cannonier seemed to make Whittaker’s case for him, but by his own admission he is aiming not to compete again until next year and that opened the door for the UFC to match Adesanya up with light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Somewhere along the way, UFC President Dana White apparently took Whittaker’s proposed timeline as evidence that Whittaker didn’t want to fight Adesanya, something that the former champ says couldn’t be further from the truth.
“That fight was never offered to me,” Whittaker said on What the Heck. “There wasn’t even talks up in the air. There was no correspondence at all and I guess that’s the most confusing factor and the most annoying part about the whole mess. There was no discussion. There was no communication. There was no dialogue. That’s annoying.
“He twisted my words around. I think because he had his own designs and the UFC—When I say ‘he’ I mean him and the UFC as an organization, I understand that Dana White doesn’t personally want to do things. Or maybe he does, who knows?—but I think they wanted [Adesanya vs. Blachowicz]. That’s a money fight for them. That’s a fight they wanted to push and that’s the only reason I can see that.”
Adesanya’s potential jump up in weight was originally motivated by a feud with three-time light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, but with Jones supposedly making a move to heavyweight, Adesanya is now potentially in position to claim a belt from Blachowicz that might lure Jones back to the division.
Should Adesanya go to 205 pounds and stay there, Whittaker is willing to go up as well. With consecutive wins over Cannonier and Darren Till, it’s the matchup that he feels has to happen next.
“The only fight that makes sense for me, and I was very verbal and open about it, is that I want to fight Adesanya,” Whittaker said. “It’s the only fight I want, I just don’t want it around Christmas. That was the biggest thing for me after the fight in the conferences and the media was just getting my timeline out there, understanding and letting people know that yes, I want this fight, this fight is the only fight that makes sense to me. It’s the fight that I earnt.
“The title fight is my right after beating Jared because that’s the type of fight it was is a contender fight. That’s the fight I earned. But I have to be there for my family and my kids and the newest member that’s going to be joining my family in January. That’s my highest priority right now is getting my timeline out there and then work around that.”
With 10 wins in his past 11 fights at middleweight, Whittaker simply doesn’t see a scenario where he loses his No. 1 contender spot. Then again, stranger things have happened, and it’s the occasionally capricious nature of the UFC matchmaking that has Whittaker frustrated.
“This sort of stuff just shoots me up the wall,” Whittaker said. “It’s a part that I do hate about the sport. I hate all these political sort of ploys and plans and I just hate it. It’s such a pain in the ass. I’m a fighter. I’m a warrior. You put me up against an opponent, you tell me to fight this guy, I’m happy to do that.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a thug, I’m not just a dude that wants to go bruising and just fighting people. But I am a warrior. This is what I do, this is my trade. I don’t like dealing with all that. It’s supposed to be very straightforward. That’s why the rankings are there, that’s why there’s a ladder. It’s supposed to be very simple, but it’s not.”
Next month, another key middleweight bout takes place as Till takes on Jack Hermansson. The winner of that bout was also in talks to potentially fight for a title, particularly if they’re willing to step in before Whittaker who doesn’t expect to book a fight until March 2021 the earliest; however, a Hermansson win could see Whittaker have to deal with another contender before getting the Adesanya rematch (a Till win would likely not lead to a second Whittaker fight so soon after their first meeting).
Whittaker only wants to fight for a title in his next appearance, regardless of who the opponent is.
“There is no fight that interests me other than a title fight of some sort,” Whittaker said. “I’ve earned it. That’s my right. That’s the next step for me, that’s the interest. Apart from that, not really.”