Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was expected to return to the cage opposite Jared Cannonier at UFC 248, but was regrettably forced out of the content with personal issues.
Speaking to Submission Radio ahead of UFC 246 over the weekend, UFC President Dana White addressed those personal issues. While he didn’t divulge what Whittaker is going through, he praised the former champion for his selflessness and even seemed to get a bit choked up when the subject was broached.
“Let me put it to you this way,” White said when asked why Whittaker withdrew from UFC 248. “That’s personal for Whittaker. If Whittaker wants to talk about that, he can, but I’ll tell you this, when you talk about somebody whose priorities are in the right place, who is completely selfless and down to the core a good human being, that’s Robert Whittaker.
“The reason Robert Whittaker is not fighting in this fight is one of the most unselfish things I’ve seen in my life. He’s a good man, he’s a good human being, and I have a lot of respect for him. Good luck to him in what he’s dealing with right now. I can’t put into words and articulate how I feel about Robert Whittaker. He’s the real deal, man.”
When asked when Whittaker might be able to fight again, White stated he isn’t sure.
“You’ve got to ask him that question,” the UFC boss said. “He’s dealing with some personal issues and what he’s doing and how he’s handling it… I have so much respect for him.”
At this stage, Robert Whittaker has not said much about his UFC 248 exit, but he did issue a brief statement after news of his withdrawal from the card surfaced.
“I’m sorry to all my friends, supporters and family for not being able to fight in March. A lot has happened over the 13 last month’s and I need to take some time now to be with my family, slow things down and refocus.” Whittaker wrote on Instagram. “Sorry to everyone again but I’ll be back. The best is yet to come.”
While we are all undoubtedly curious what Whittaker is going through, let’s respect his privacy during what sounds like a difficult time.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/17/2020.