As far as active rivalries go in the 185-pound weight class, not many have as much history and intrigue as the one shared by reigning middleweight king Adesanya and top contender Whittaker.
The pair first met at UFC 243 back in October 2019. At the time, “The Last Stylebender” was a fast-rising and undefeated star who held the interim gold. On the other side, “The Reaper” was riding a nine-fight, five-year unbeaten streak, and had been champion since 2017.
Inside Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, it was Adesanya who walked away with undisputed status after emerging victorious in a grudge match that came after weeks of back and forth and personal remarks.
After finding success on their own journeys since, Adesanya and Whittaker’s paths are set to cross again this weekend at UFC 271. While the titleholder will be looking to record his fourth successful defense and firmly establish his superiority over Whittaker, the New Zealand-born Australian is out for redemption.
Whittaker: “We’ll Always Be Rivals”
Ahead of their rematch, the build-up is certainly less hostile and more respectful. Having suggested the media narratives at play in 2019, especially the accentuated New Zealand vs. Australia rivalry, played a part in the build and his defeat, Whittaker appears to be enjoying a more relaxed and calm approach for Saturday’s Houston-held pay-per-view.
But despite that, the pair are certainly not friends. During a recent interview with RT Sport, Whittaker suggested a number of factors means he and Adesanya will always be rivals.
“I think we’ll always be rivals. It’s just, I think it’s a personality thing,” said Whittaker. “The fact that we’re both middleweights, strikers, from that part of the world; I think we’ll always be rivals.”
When asked if he can foresee a route to friendship with “The Last Stylebender” in the future, Whittaker admitted it’s unlikely, largely because he’s not a fan of Adesanya’s outgoing personality and the way the champ carries himself.
“I don’t like the way he conducts himself. I don’t like his character. It doesn’t suit.”
While tensions and hostility are levels below where they were prior to UFC 243, UFC 271 still promises to be a fiery affair and certainly has a lot at stake.
The result has been heavily discussed, debated, and predicted. However, the fact Whittaker and Adesanya will always share some form of animosity doesn’t seem to be arguable.
Do you agree with Robert Whittaker? What are your thoughts on Israel Adesanya’s character and personality?