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Robert Whittaker: ‘I wasn’t myself’ against Israel Adesanya, vows to stay ready as UFC 253 backup

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Till Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Robert Whittaker had a lot riding on his performance at UFC on ESPN 14.

After falling to Israel Adesanya and losing the middleweight title in his previous fight, Whittaker knew he needed a win against Darren Till. He delivered with a unanimous decision victory after five back-and-forth rounds in the final card on UFC’s Fight Island.

“Obviously there was a lot of pressures and stresses going into this fight,” Whittaker said at the post-fight press conference at Yas Island. “I’m just happy. We got the result that we came here for.

“I’m happy that the work trip was successful. I’m happy that I got to showcase more of my skill sets and open up. I got to fight adversity in the fight again. It is what it is. It was a great fight. Stressful fight.”

Whittaker called his battle with Till a “chess match” from the opening round until the final bell, but ultimately the judges scored him winning the fight.

While he never doubted himself, the 29-year-old former champion still needed to bounce back after a less than stellar performance against Adesanya this past October.

“Honestly, I am championship level,” Whittaker said. “Everyone can see that. Everyone’s always known that. I wasn’t myself last fight. I believe that. Not to take anything away [from Israel Adesanya], he’s a great striker, but I wasn’t myself last fight. I think this is a good win.

“I’m a champion without the belt, with the belt, doesn’t matter. It is what it is. I’m looking forward to getting back to work and seeing how that next fight goes.”

It was a long road back from that loss to his win on Saturday night, but Whittaker appears motivated to keep this momentum going for the remainder of the year.

Whittaker had no interest in calling his shot when asked about what comes next, though he did offer to stay ready just in case the UFC needs him as backup if either Adesanya or Brazilian powerhouse Paulo Costa aren’t able to fight at UFC 253.

“That’s a great time,” Whittaker said about potentially competing again in September. “I’ll be preparing around that time. If we can all get on the same card, that would be great. We would be ready. We’re always ready.

There was no title shot promised with a win over Till, but Whittaker knows he’s going to stay ready for that opportunity no matter when it comes again.

“I’m ready for a championship fight right now,” Whittaker said. “Whenever. Tomorrow. Last night. It doesn’t matter. I’m championship level. I displayed that tonight.

“That’s just the level I’m at. I’m already ready for a championship title shot. That’s just me.”

If the title shot doesn’t come next, Whittaker didn’t seem to care otherwise who the UFC will match him against. Instead, Whittaker is just ready for whatever challenge comes his way, and his only priority right now is a flight back home to Australia.

“They line them up, I knock them down,” Whittaker said about his next fight. “My biggest thing right now is want to go back home to my babies, to my wife. That’s why I do all this.”

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