After the shake-up at middleweight, everything seems to have returned to normal. Not only is there movement, not only does Robert Whittaker get a fight, it’s with Luke Rockhold for the undisputed title thanks to Georges St-Pierre vacating the belt. While everything seems to be coming up Whittaker, he still lost out on a huge fight with the former welterweight king. It would have been a giant chance for the fighter just now reaching his prime, especially since Whittaker grew up watching him, to potentially put that win on his record. Belt or not, Whittaker wanted the fight out of respect.
“I don’t think there was a doubt in any one’s mind who the real [UFC middleweight] champ was. I fought my way up through some hard dudes to get to where I am, and yeah, I am the champ, I was the champ. Yeah, it was [disappointing I couldn’t fight Georges St-Pierre for the belt], because I wanted to fight Georges out of respect more than anything. I idolized him as a child coming up and as a young man coming up in my career he was always like one of my biggest idols. To be able to fight him would’ve been great, to put him on my resume and say I fought Georges St-Pierre, that was great. But I don’t think I ever really convinced myself that he would fight me. I think it was a dangerous fight for him, a hard fight for him and it is what it is.”
— Robert Whittaker (@robwhittakermma) December 12, 2017
“What [St-Pierre leaving] did do was it gave me direction, it gave me an opponent, it gave me a place, a time, and it gave me something to strive for. I’m very objective-driven, so to be given an opponent and a place and a time and a date, it’s great for me. […] Anyone who thinks Rockhold is an easy fight is off their head. He’s the previous champ, he’s one of the best fighters in the world. Anyone that can say he’s an easy fight can fight him. Let’s see Kelvin [Gastelum] fight him […] And that’s not saying he’s not a hard fight, he’s a very hard fight, I think everyone in the top ten is a very hard fight. Kelvin Gastelum’s got a bunch of great skillsets and he’s beaten some real studs, but he can fight some other guys in the top ten and some other killers that I had to work my way through.” — Robert Whittaker speaking to Submission Radio.
Robert Whittaker may have lost out on the big fight with Georges St-Pierre, but he’s one fight away from being the undisputed champion and cementing his own legacy. He’s already beat Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero back-to-back. If he follows that up with a win over former champion Luke Rockhold, that’s quite an incredible run. Fight with St-Pierre or not, they’ll be no denying who is the real middleweight champion if Robert Whittaker is able to accomplish that.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 12/14/2017.