UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya has suggested that Robert Whittaker will succumb to the pressure of facing him once again.
Adesanya’s comments come after he recorded his third successful title defense against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 last month. Whittaker was originally the targeted opponent but he turned down the June date in order to fully recover and spend time with his family in Australia. The two 185-pound stars are now expected to meet inside the Octagon for the second time later this year.
The pair first came to blows at UFC 243 in 2019. “The Last Stylebender” secured a memorable knockout on his way to having the middleweight gold wrapped around his waist in Whittaker’s home country.
As the pair look set to run it back later this year, their rivalry has continued to heat up. Adesanya’s latest words came during an appearance on “THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas.”
While addressing his victory over “The Reaper,” Adesanya suggested he knew his opponent wasn’t himself in the lead up to their headlining bout.
“When he had his suit on, he had his people around him, he’s in his home country and he looked like the prim, proper poster boy for his moment. And I was saying, ‘Man, he’s not himself.’ He’s taking shots at me, he’s making memes about me, and he’s trying to act like I’m the crazy one.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Oh my God, Robert is so in his head. Look how angry Izzy was getting.’ I was saying, ‘Look – he’s not himself. He can’t handle the moment.’
Adesanya added that Whittaker simply couldn’t handle the pressure of facing him in front of what remains the biggest crowd in UFC history.
“This is pressure – 57,127 people in that arena that night, and I could see that pressure was on him when we were in the cage. I could feel it. I felt like a cobra, and I could feel that he was just feeling that pressure,” said Adesanya.
Since he lost the middleweight gold to Adesanya, Whittaker has looked back to his best. Two impressive and technical five-round victories over Darren Till and Kelvin Gastelum, along with a comfortable win against Jared Cannonier, have brought the 30-year-old back into contention for the belt.
Having won 12 of his last 13 fights, Whittaker’s defeat to “The Last Stylebender” remains his only loss since 2014. He’ll hope to maintain that statistic when he has a second attempt at becoming the first man to beat Adesanya at middleweight.
Do you think Robert Whittaker can reclaim the title when he rematches Israel Adesanya?