Robert Whittaker gives Israel Adesanya props for an iconic celebration at UFC 287. Well, at least the first half of it.
Whittaker can endorse the imaginary bow-and-arrow shots Adesanya unleashed immediately after knocking out Pereira to reclaim the UFC middleweight title. What he can’t get behind is the new champ’s retort to Pereira’s son, who five years ago imitated Adesanya’s knockout loss to Pereira in the kickboxing ring.
“I thought the bow and arrow bit was really, really cool,” Whittaker said on The MMA Hour. “You’ve got to give it to him. But I thought that other bit with Pereira’s son was a bit petty. And he admits that he’s a petty dude. He’s a petty dude.
“But dude, you can’t hold a grudge on 5-year-olds. If I held a grudge with every 5-year-old that pissed me off, I’d be fighting for the next 40 years of my life.”
To his credit, Adesanya conceded he was not being his best self when he brought Pereira’s family into things. Pereira said he held back his son when he captured the middleweight title from Adesanya via TKO at UFC 281, and he disapproved of the revenge gesture.
MMA observers, meanwhile, were equally humored – and a little uncomfortable - at the lengths to which Adesanya would go to return a slight.
A father of four, Whittaker is well-acquainted with all the ways children act out as they grow up. He said others shouldn’t look to Adesanya as any role model on how to respond.
“He said he’s petty, so he admitted it with such energy, right? To everybody listening and watching, that doesn’t make it a good thing, OK?” Whittaker said. “Don’t get confused, just because he does it and admits it like a champ, that it’s a good thing. Don’t be petty. It’s not good.”
Whittaker hopes to face Adesanya a third time after two setbacks against the Nigerian native, and he just might get it. On Friday, UFC President Dana White revealed that Whittaker will face Dricus Du Plessis in a title eliminator fight at July’s UFC 290 event, with the winner likely to face Adesanya — possibly in Sydney, Australia — later this year.