Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker says retirement was a possibility before he signed on to fight Darren Till on July 25.
Whittaker last fought in October, when he surrendered the UFC middleweight title to Israel Adesanya. He was briefly scheduled to return to the cage against Jared Cannonier at UFC 248, but ultimately withdrew from the matchup.
After Whittaker pulled out of that fight, it came to light that he was taking a hiatus from his fighting career to spend some time with his family.
Speaking on a recent episode of Submission Radio, Robert Whittaker conceded that, if he didn’t the “spark” to fight again during that hiatus, he might have ended up retiring.
“It’s not one of the things where I was like, ‘I think I’m gonna retire,'” Whittaker said. “That wasn’t a thought in my head. It was more so, I knew that if during my break, if I didn’t find that spark, I would have to hang up the gloves. And like, I had to be cool with that possibility, because the whole thing going into my break was not having any sort of preconceived notion on what I was gonna do, on how it was going to end and what I was going to do afterwards, after the break.
“That’s why it was so weird for me,” Whittaker added. “Even trying to explain it now sounds weird. Just going out there with nothing on the table, no plans on what to do or anything, and just rest and relax and wake up. You’ll get it when I say ‘I went to bed and didn’t set an alarm to wake up.’ You know, I woke up with no plans on what to do that day. I just woke up and asked my family what they were doing, and then rinse and repeat. It was weird, but it was much needed, cause it just cleared so much clutter in my head.”
In the end of course, Robert Whittaker decided to fight again, and is now gearing up to fight Till. From the sounds of it, the break has done wonders for his morale and his commitment to his fighting career.
“Well, to be honest, like, when I went on my break, I didn’t know what to do because I was so burnt out,” Whitaker said. “I just didn’t feel – and everyone’s felt it – when you do something for so long and you hit that grind, you just get sick of everything and you find no motivation to do anything. Even if it’s something you enjoy, if you thrash it too much, you just lose it. So, I hit a point where I was just so burnt out, I needed a break. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t have any sort of idea on what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to go to the gym, because the gym, for me, was always a means to an end. The fight for me is always what’s driven me. I drive to the fight, I like fighting. I learn skillsets for the fight. So, with no fight in sight and the idea of not knowing if I wanted to fight anymore, I didn’t want to go to the gym.
“That took like a massive chunk out of my life that I had to work around,” Whittaker added. “It was really weird for me just being in limbo, I guess, not telling myself to do anything, not making plans, just having that solid break where I was just doing nothing. I was just waking up every day working out what I was doing that day.
“It was weird, but eventually as I started getting rejuvenated and getting refreshed and started to unwind, that fire, that longing to get in there, to get to work, to fight, it just came back with more fervour than ever,” Whittaker continued. “That’s when I knew, it wasn’t so much what I was doing, it was the way I was doing it. I just needed to change some things and make things a little different to how I was doing them before.”
Whittaker added that the coronavirus pandemic had a bit of a silver lining for him, as it meant he got to spend more time with his family.
“What’s going on in the world is terrible, let me start with that, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time for me because I needed a break, and it just got extended,” Whittaker said. “Everybody is in the same boat, all the work just shut up shop and everyone’s just kind of just… it’s like the world almost said, ‘everybody, you get a bit of a break now, everybody can just spend time with their families,’ and I was like, cool, cool. And not to mention, I’m pretty sure I was made for isolation. So, like, all I did was I just woke up, spent time with the kids, I jumped on my computer, I did some weights, then I spend some more time with my kids, I played some more on my computer. That was the cycle for weeks, for months. And honestly, it was a holiday, it was such a big holiday. It was such an experience.”
Needless to say, it sounds like Robert Whittaker is in a great place ahead of his fight with Darren Till.