Robert Whittaker was supposed to defend the UFC middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 earlier this month. Unfortunately, the champion was forced out of the fight on the very day of the card, and rushed into the hospital with a collapsed hernia.
This issue could keep Whittaker on the shelf for quite some time. Given that it’s already been close to a year since his last fight, the promotion has decided to create an interim middleweight title to keep the division moving in his stead. The interim title fight will occur at UFC 236 on April 13, when Gastelum battles undefeated contender Israel Adesanya.
Speaking on his Grange TV podcast recently, Robert Whittaker reacted to this news.
“I’m looking to fight the winner of that,” Whittaker said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I guess, in terms of timelines and dates, it will be a month – two or three months after that. Three months maximum, one month minimum. That’s the kind of timeline I’m looking for.”
Gastelum and Adesanya are ranked fourth and fifth respectively in the UFC middleweight division. Interestingly, Whittaker seems to find it a little ridiculous to promote a title fight that doesn’t involve the champion or any of the top-three ranked fighters.
“When you look at the poster it says Gastelum vs Adesanya, four versus five, but one, two, three aren’t in the equation,” Whittaker said. “Gastelum’s a great fight for [Adesanya] to fight. I would’ve liked to see him fight Romero or Rockhold or Weidman. I think they’d give him a lot of trouble.”
Needless to say, Robert Whittaker isn’t quite sold on the Israel Adesanya hype.
“I think that Adesanya isn’t as good as he thinks he is,” Whittaker said. “I think he’s very good – very, very good – and I have a lot of respect for his skillset, 100 percent. He’s a dangerous guy. But I don’t think the pedestal that he’s on is as high as everyone else thinks it is, as he thinks it is. I think his fight with Anderson Silva was the first time his stand-up capabilities were put to the test with someone with similar stand-up capabilities. . .
“I don’t think Adesanya’s striking is as good as he believes. it is. It’s very good. I’m not saying his striking is bad, it’s very, very good – but I just don’t think it’s as good as he thinks it is. The times Adesanya’s looked very good is against people that don’t have the greatest striking.”
“We’re not kickboxing,” Whittaker continued. “The difference in striking in the Octagon as opposed to the ring is night and day. Comparing the two isn’t applicable. Yes, he can take a lot of the skillsets over and they’re very transferable, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same.
“Having very high technical skills in striking, isn’t the same as being a very dangerous striker. If you were to look at Romero, he is not technically great at stand-up. He’s not known for his technical grace with his standup, [but] most of his wins have been knockouts. He hits very hard. He hits like a truck. He’s a dangerous striker. He would have to be one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. Most of his wins come by knockout standing up – punches, flying knees – he’s a very, very dangerous striker but you can’t say he’s super technical, because he’s not.
“Adesanya is dangerous and technical, but he’s not the same as Romero. He’s not super, super dangerous.”
What do you think of these comments from the champ Robert Whittaker?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/21/2019.