clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Robert Whittaker breaks silence about Dricus Du Plessis loss: ‘This is the wake-up call I needed’

UFC 290: Whittaker v Du Plessis Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Robert Whittaker is ready to move past one of the toughest results of his MMA career.

Speaking Thursday on his YouTube show, the former UFC middleweight champion finally addressed his UFC 290 loss to Dricus du Plessis, which saw Whittaker lose to the South African fighter via second-round TKO in a title eliminator bout that could’ve landed him a coveted third crack at UFC champion Israel Adesanya.

“I went out there with the intention of putting my best foot forward and giving the best performance of my career, and ended up giving the worst performance of my career,” Whittaker said on his The MMArcade Podcast.

“That’s the hardest part about about the loss is just that I know I can do better. I beat myself, in a funny sense. It’s not performing. And a lot of the other athletes and a lot of the other fighters will tell you about it, and they’ll talk to you about it and they’ll say, when we’re asked a question, ‘Are you scared?’ No, no, it’s never fear of my opponent or fear of getting beaten up or fear of getting hurt. It’s fear of failing to perform. It’s fear of going out there and not doing what you trained for the last four months, four hours a day in the gym, seven days a week — and then to go in there and do none of it.

“And that’s kind of where I’m sitting in this room, what I’m upset about, because I put months and months and months of work into the fight and working things with my different coaches, with my boxing coach, jiu-jitsu, grappling, wrestling coach — and I went out there and I did absolutely none of it,” Whittaker continued. “Like, absolutely none of it. The work just went out the window.

“That’s the most upsetting part, because not only did I lose — losing is one part — but I didn’t do anything I worked on, and that’s just disappointing because I’ve only got myself to blame on on that. And this isn’t taking anything away from Dricus, because Dricus, he trained, he showed up ready to fight, and he fought, he turned up. And that’s half of the fight, isn’t it? And I didn’t. I didn’t. It’s a funny job to not turn up in, mate. Let me tell you.”

Whittaker, 32, suddenly finds himself in a somewhat unfamiliar position.

Prior to UFC 290, Whittaker was a perfect 12-0 in the UFC middleweight division against opponents not named Adesanya, but 0-2 against the champ. His biggest challenge was convincing the organization and its fan base that he deserved a third bout against Adesanya, but he’d nearly done it. He just needed to get past Du Plessis.

Now, however, Whittaker is likely several wins away from a title shot. But he’s opting to use the disappointment he’s currently feeling as a springboard toward greater things.

“It is what it is. I do believe that this was the kick in the ass I needed to really take me to the next level,” Whittaker said. “It helped me align a few of my goals, like goals of titles and winning and beating Izzy and now Dricus. I want to finish my career never losing again. I want to finish my career undefeated from this point.

“And I do believe that this is the wake-up call that I needed to really free myself in a sense, to address a lot of the things that I’ve gotten away with that I didn’t last fight, that would have caught up with me, that did catch up with me in the last fight, that would have eventually anyway. And it’s a lot of things that I’ve gotten away with throughout my career just because of my speed, athletic ability, instincts, eyes, all that sort of jazz.

“Mate, spending 10 months, 11 months between fights, putting all that work in and then to get to center stage and not do any of it was really, really disappointing for me,” Whittaker continued. “Really, really disappointing for me. Because you see, like, in that second fight with Izzy, I lost, but at least I did what I trained for. So, this fight, I did nothing and I just let down my coaches. And I know they don’t feel that way, but I do. I let down my coaches, I let down my fans and friends. But I don’t know, this feeling, I am using this feeling as energy, I am using this feeling as a drive, because I don’t want to feel like this again, mate.

“This isn’t how I want to finish my career. This isn’t the feeling I want to experience again. And the only way not to feel like this is to get back into the gym, train like a savage, and get back into the octagon sooner rather than later. Through no fault of my own, the fights have been further apart than I would like. But I aim to change that.”

Whittaker said his goal now is to fight again one more time in 2023, ideally in November.

With much of the UFC’s middleweight top 10 already booked, he floated the idea of potentially facing Roman Dolidze, who’s won four of his past five bouts and lost a controversial decision to Marvin Vettori in most recent outing this past March.

Of course, he’s open to other options as well.

“Or my rematch with Dricus,” Whittaker said, laughing. “That’s what I do now, I lose a guy and then I just complain until I get a rematch. That’s my thing. That’s my thing now, I want a rematch with anyone that beats me.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting