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Robert Whittaker makes case for Israel Adesanya trilogy: ‘I’m never gonna stop hunting him’

UFC 271: Adesanya v Whittaker 2
Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Robert Whittaker watched Israel Adesanya overcome his nemesis and he believes he’ll soon get his chance to do the same.

Whittaker — the No. 2 middleweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings — has met Adesanya in a pair of championship bouts first dropping the title via second-round knockout in a unification bout with Adesanya at UFC 243 and then falling just short on the scorecards in their rematch at UFC 271.

Had Adesanya lost to Alex Pereira at UFC 287 this past weekend, there’s a good chance that Whittaker would have faced Pereira for the middleweight title, but Adesanya avenged three previous combat sports losses to Pereira with a thrilling knockout, a result that leaves Whittaker’s immediate future uncertain.

“I’m in a tricky position,” Whittaker told Submission Radio (transcription via Denis Shkuratov). “I know this. Especially with Izzy winning that fight. I know the path that UFC had was for Pereira to win, me to fight Pereira, beat Pereira, Izzy to fight me. That’s the rematch they wanted. That’s how they wanted it to happen. I’m pretty sure. And I’m not a hundred percent sure. I can’t read their minds, but it sounds good in my head. Now, Izzy’s won. Where does that leave me? I don’t think Pereira’s staying in middleweight. I think he’s moving up. He would. You would think so anyway. So, where does that leave me? Yeah, I don’t know. But my general idea of getting that title shot is the same. If they give it to me, they give it to me. I’m hunting for it. I’m never gonna stop hunting for him and that’s just the truth of it. I will never stop. I will never stop coming for him. And if I have to run through people and just end people’s careers to get that third shot at him, then I will. That’s just what I’m going to do.

“Because it took Izzy four times to beat Alex Pereira, to get his redemption arc. It’ll only take me three to get mine. I guarantee you. The last time was very close and my headspace was nowhere near as good as it is now. So, with the better skill set, the better mindset, he loses that fight.”

The history between Adesanya and Pereira was well-known ahead of UFC 287, with Pereira owning two wins over Adesanya in kickboxing before chasing him to the octagon where he defeated him this past November to become UFC champion in just his eighth pro MMA fight.

Given Pereira’s lack of experience, Whittaker would not only have been a logical next title defense for him he might even be favored. “The Reaper” 13-2 in his past 15 fights, with Adesanya marking his only two losses.

Whittaker was on a live stream during UFC 287, so the whole world was able to see his reaction, one that he clarified wasn’t strictly one of disappointment over his title chances taking a hit.

“My reaction—because I’ve also seen a lot of the comments—it’s like, ‘You can see Rob being heartbroken. You can see Rob crushed because there goes his title shot, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,’” Whittaker said. “That’s my reaction for every freaking fight that ends spectacularly. If you look at the last time Pereira beat Izzy, it was the same reaction. ... Honestly, my reaction to Izzy winning was happiness. I was happy for him to win. I think it was a great way for him to win. I think it was a great story closure for their little period, for their thing that’s happening. And I guess a big thing that I realized is just how bad I want to fight Izzy. It wasn’t until the fight between Alex and Izzy had played out and was playing out that—if Alex would’ve won, I would’ve moved up to fight Alex. That was pretty much a sure thing. Which is cool. I want that fight. I’m aiming for the belt. OK. But it’s not the same. I want to take the belt off Izzy.”

“That’s what I want to do,” he continued. “I do have a lot of respect for his skillset, and I’ve mentioned that before. I’ve mentioned it to his face. But I know it’s a puzzle I can work out and it excites me. The challenge of trying to beat him, of getting back the belt from him, it’s a driving force for me. I enjoy that and I’m never gonna stop hunting him. Ever. Ever. That’s just what I want to do until I get that W back from him. That’s what I want. So my reaction was happiness.”

Whittaker’s live stream footage wasn’t the only reaction fans saw after the UFC 287 main event concluded. He also put his Twitter fingers to work, suggesting that the trilogy bout between he and Adesanya still makes sense.

“Amazing fight and great story finisher,” Whittaker wrote, tagging Adesanya. “Rest up, see you soon.”

Had Whittaker known that fighters across the board would immediately angle to face “The Last Stylebender,” from Dricus Du Plessis to Khamzat Chimaev to lifetime light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz, he would have held off on the callout.

“Well, for one with the tweet, OK, I feel like a c**k,” Whittaker said. “Because bloody everybody and their mate started calling him out. I didn’t realize everybody was calling him out. Otherwise, I would’ve just kept my mouth shut. I don’t wanna join those dudes.

“Yeah, I want that fight, but not at the cost of calling him out with everybody else. Everybody wants a piece of him. It made me feel so mainstream.”

Watch Whittaker’s interview with Submission Radio here:

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