Robert Whittaker understands UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley’s gripe with the UFC’s backup fighter concept. That concept being, the promotion keeps a backup fighter on deck, who will cut weight and prepare as if they’re fighting, just in case a main event or title fight falls through due to someone missing weight. However, fighters don’t like the idea of having to fight a completely different competitor on hours notice.
This could’ve come into play when Woodley defended his 170-pound strap against Darren Till earlier this year. If either man would’ve missed weight, Kamaru Usman was being kept on notice to step in should his services be required. Whittaker believes this concept is a “silly” one, as he tells MMA Fighting:
“I think the idea behind backup fighters is a little silly or there should be different incentives and things involved in it,” said Whittaker. “I think it should be more thought out, I can’t envision a guy getting paid to make weight. That’s not the sport, that’s not the name of the game.
“I think fights need to be made and deadlines need to be made, I think athletes themselves need to be more professional about the sport, I think a lot of guys are getting lax, a lot of guys are taking advantage of different loopholes they can exploit.”
Of course, the fighter could always refuse to step into the cage, however, fighters such as Whittaker find this difficult. Whittaker will defend his championship against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 in February.
The Australian can’t imagine flying to the states all the way from across the world, and refusing to fight because his opponent was changed at the last minute:
“Again, you’re putting me in a corner, aren’t you?” Whittaker said. “it’s like we get to the fight night, my opponent can’t make it and you’re like, ‘You still gonna fight?’ What am I a pussy? You’re kind of forcing my hand when you put me in a corner like that.
“Does no one else see any holes in that plan? I think there are a lot of holes to be exploited in that plan. It seems silly to me, because the whole idea between fighting is you have an opponent that you prepare meticulously for, for weeks.
“And then all of a sudden, the guy says, ‘Can’t fight.’ And the backup guy is conveniently there? Nah, dude.”
What do you think about Whittaker’s comments regarding the UFC’s backup fighter concept?