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Morning Report: Robert Whittaker jokes that he hopes Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira ‘never come back the same’ after UFC 281

UFC Fight Night: Whittaker v Vettori Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Robert Whittaker will be watching UFC 281 closer than most.

This weekend’s return to Madison Square Garden showcases the middleweight division as two of MMA’s very best strikers collide with the grandest prize on the line. Reigning UFC champion Israel Adesanya seeks out his sixth title defense along with a little redemption against former kickboxing rival, Alex Pereira.

Despite Pereira’s participation in the title tilt, Whittaker is still largely considered the second-best 185-pound fighter on the planet and believes he’s No. 1. Only bested by Adesanya in the division, “The Reaper” is always one to keep it real, and is doing so again when it comes to his feelings on the big upcoming matchup.

“Absolutely not,” Whittaker responded jokingly when asked on mainevent if he was rooting for someone. “I hope they both hurt each other extremely. Like bad (laughs). I hope they never — I hope they fight so hard and they hurt each other so bad that they never come back the same.

“I do believe I’m the best middleweight in the world, I just get countered by ‘Izzy’ so hard (laughs). I just feel like he’s my counter. I don’t fight well against him.”

Whittaker saw his title run come to an end after being knocked out in the second round against Adesanya in their initial Oct. 2019 encounter. Earlier this year, they rematched with Whittaker putting up a much more competitive effort, but again falling short this time via unanimous decision.

For Adesanya, he’s been virtually unmatched as a striker in the octagon. The expectation due to their history is that Pereira will provide one of the stiffer challenges yet and Whittaker feels there’s one very specific key factor that the fight will boil down to.

“There are a couple elements I see in this fight that are going to lead to this fight being why I’m watching it so closely,” Whittaker said. “They fought each other multiple times before, but they fought each other in bigger gloves. They were both landing strikes on each other, tagging each other, how does the small gloves affect that? If they can land shots like they did in kickboxing in this fight coming up with the small gloves because the smaller gloves make the biggest difference. It impacts the entirety of the fight. How they engage, how wreckless they are moving forward, all of that.

“How that changes, what is that going to do to the fight itself? And next, who has evolved more? Who in their time away from each other since their last bout has evolved enough?”


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VIDEO STEW

Between the Links.

Prochazka vs. Teixeira 2 first staredown.

Special UFC 281 media day.

Embedded 4.

State of the UFC strawweight division.

Carla Esparza career retrospective.

To the top! Poirier vs. Chandler.

Dan Hooker’s top finishes.

DC and Anthony Smith breakdown UFC 281.

Crazy moments from upcoming Bellator prelim fighters.

UFC 281 CKB All Access Ep. 2.

Empire State staredown.

Pereira BTS.


LISTEN UP

Heck of a Morning. MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck makes bold predictions for UFC 281, Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira main event.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Jiri champ.

Wholesome.

Travelin’.

Prep.

Sheesh.

Alrighty.

Ready.


FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Jordan Leavitt (10-2) vs. Victor Martinez (13-4); UFC Fight Night, Feb. 25


FINAL THOUGHTS

How do you not love Whittaker?

Happy Friday, gang! Have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading!


EXIT POLL

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If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @DrakeRiggs_ on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and like us on Facebook.

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