Although Robert Whittaker has certainly earned himself a chance to reclaim the UFC middleweight title, it appears he may not get the next title shot.
Whittaker is coming off a sensational performance, a unanimous decision win over Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC Vegas 24 this past Saturday night. “The Reaper” has won three fights in a nine-month span since losing the 185-pound title to current champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 and has surely put himself in a position for the rematch with Adesanya.
According to Dana White, Adesanya seems ready to get back in the octagon sooner rather than later following an unsuccessful big to become a two-division champion when he dropped a unanimous decision to light heavyweight titleholder Jan Blachowicz in the main event of UFC 259 in March. The timing of Adesanya’s return doesn’t seem like it will line up for Whittaker, which seems to have White and the matchmakers looking in a different direction.
While appearing on The Bill Simmons Podcast this week, UFC president Dana White was asked to name two fighters that could become big stars for the promotion in the next two years. Along with Mackenzie Dern, White named another middleweight contender that has been surging that has been looking for his own rematch with Adesanya, and it appears he just might get it.
“A guy that I’m high on right now is from Italy, his name is Marvin Vettori,” White said. “It’s looking like Robert Whittaker, who just fought on Saturday night, isn’t gonna be ready to fight Israel Adesanya at the time that Israel wants to fight. So it’ll probably be Marvin Vettori first.”
Although White didn’t reveal a timetable for Adesanya’s next appearance, broadcast partner ESPN is reporting that talks have been ongoing for “The Last Stylebender” to compete at UFC 263, which is set to take place on June 12. MMA Fighting subsequently confirmed from a source close to the situation that the bout is being targeted but it’s not done as of yet.
Vettori dropped a split decision to Adesanya at UFC on FOX 29 in April 2018. Since then, “The Italian Dream” has run off five consecutive victories, including back-to-back main event wins over Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland.
White sees a lot of star potential in Vettori and believes he could help grow the brand in a major way in his home country.
“Much like Conor McGregor, Conor ignited Europe. Everybody who didn’t know the UFC knows the UFC now because of Conor McGregor throughout Europe. This is what this guy could do for Italy,” White stated.