Whittaker and Adesanya are currently gearing up for their long-awaited rematch. The pair first collided inside Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium in 2019. At the time, “The Reaper” sat on the middleweight throne and was riding a nine-fight, five-year win streak that included victories over Yoel Romero, Ronaldo Souza, Derek Brunson, and Uriah Hall.
Adesanya, meanwhile, was unbeaten in professional MMA and earned interim gold six months prior in a Fight of the Year-worthy clash with Kelvin Gastelum. “The Last Stylebender” secured undisputed status by finishing Whittaker in the second round at UFC 243.
Now, with both men finding immense success at 185 pounds since 2019, the two elite middleweights will run it back in the main event of Houston’s UFC 271 pay-per-view next weekend.
Media “Tone” Affected Whittaker At UFC 243
Following his devastating loss to Adesanya, Whittaker admitted he’d been suffering mentally and from burn-out and would be taking an extended layoff from the sport of MMA.
Now, as a revitalized and motivated fighter, the New Zealand-born Australian has looked back on his only setback in his last 13 Octagon outings and assessed what created the overwhelming emotion that proved to be his downfall.
During a recent appearance on Submission Radio, Whittaker discussed the effect the media narratives and tone had on his mindset and performance. According to “The Reaper,” the enhanced Australia vs. New Zealand rivalry and a number of other scenarios meant his ego “got away” on him.
“The thing is, I think it was just an accumulative effect. It was an effect that was just making everything much harder than it should have been, or making things affect me a lot more than they would have, because of the ego,” said Whittaker. “I think, we all have egos, and I think in places and in quantities, I think ego is a good thing, especially for fighters. We’re fighting with people; people are trying to take away what’s ours.
“But I think it got away a little bit on me, just because of the media, and because of, I guess, the scenario, and the situations, and atmosphere; the tone the media was selling to the fans of this rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, the tone about the arena and of fighting at home, and of this, and of that. It just got a bit much, that’s all,” concluded Whittaker.
Having delivered three impressive performances since returning to the Octagon in 2020, including main event wins against Darren Till and Kelvin Gastelum, Whittaker has certainly been back to his best and has also been sporting a visibly relaxed mindset and attitude ahead of his chance for redemption.
It remains to be seen if that’ll be enough for him to add the first blemish to Adesanya’s middleweight record when they meet in the Toyota Center on February 12.
Do you think a revitalized and motivated Robert Whittaker can dethrone Israel Adesanya at UFC 271?