Robert Whittaker was expected to defend his UFC middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 in in Melbourne, Australia back in February. Regrettably, the Australian was forced out of this fight at the last minute with a hernia and a collapsed bowel that required immediate, emergency surgery.
Whittaker says this unfortunate twist of fate left him in a pit of depression and despair. He opened up on this struggle on a recent episode of Submission Radio.
“Depression is real, and it doesn’t matter who you are, you can get depressed and you can feel like you’re falling down a pit of despair,” Whittaker said. “But it was hard. That camp was very hard for me. Coming back from the injury, being behind in terms of like the goal-setting that I wanted, my markers. I was very behind. Seeing my training partners performing much better than I, and it was a hard time for myself to motivate myself, to keep going, to motivate myself to feel good. I was just… I was very apathetic and didn’t want to do anything. That’s kind of how it is for me. But I did (get over it) and I’m on top of the world now.”
Luckily, with the help of the people around him, Robert Whittaker was able to emerge from these mental health struggles. He’s now set to defend his title against interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 in Melbourne this October.
“What really helped me is obviously the people that surrounded me,” Whittaker said. “You know, being supported by my wife, my kids, the support system I had around myself you know, my coaching staff, my training partners, they all cared for me. And just knowing that they’re there and you can talk to them is very important. Honestly, I just reached a point where I felt that it was either do or die for me. So it was either I had to just start hitting the sessions, I had to get through it, I had to bite down on the mouthguard and just plod along – or not. And the alternative would have been to hang up the gloves, call it in. And I wasn’t ready to do that.”
“It’s not like I suddenly felt like picking up a new hobby, it’s not like I suddenly felt like doing a new job, it was more of like I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to have naps, not leave the house and just do nothing. It’s hard. I was demotivated to do anything. And it wasn’t specifically a sport-related thing, it was more everything. I was just tired, mate. I was just tired of it all.”
With his battle with depression in the rear-view, Robert Whittaker is looking forward to sharing the cage with Adesanya. He believes he can put his rival away quickly, especially after watching Adesanya’s war with Kelvin Gastelum.
“If Kelvin can get in and hit him, I can. Kelvin could get in there — I think he was winning the striking exchanges early on. And I’m a better striker than Kelvin. Plus, I don’t drop off.”
“I’m going in there with the goal of making sure it’s short. You know, I really am.”
How do you think Robert Whittaker will look in his return to the cage at UFC 243?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 8/29/2019.