UFC middleweight contender Robert Whittaker believes that the mentalities of some in the MMA fanbase are yet to evolve in the same way that the sport has.
Whittaker was expected to return for his second fight of 2022 at UFC 275 in June, an event that is set to mark the promotion’s return to Singapore. The Australian had been matched up with the #3-ranked Marvin Vettori on the main card. Like Whittaker, “The Italian Dream” has suffered two losses to current 185-pound champion Israel Adesanya.
Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Whittaker had pulled out from the contest, citing an injury as his reason for the withdrawal. A prior tweet from Vettori, in which the 28-year-old suggested that he’s the only middleweight who doesn’t pull out, had already hinted that the bout had fallen through.
Despite his fan-favorite status and pretty consistent activity in recent years, Whittaker was met with some hostile and negative reactions from a few members of the fanbase.
During a recent appearance on Submission Radio, “The Reaper” discussed the fan response, and described how difficult the period prior to his official withdrawal had been.
“Let me say, the MMA community, sometimes they can be bloody brutal [LAUGHS]. They’re just hammering me,” noted Whittaker. “It’s like, mate… The thing is, trust me, I was kept up at night, tossing and turning, knowing I had to make a decision. Honestly, it’s been a rough and stressful period, trying to work out the injury and still prepare for the fight. Then living with the idea that the doctors don’t think I’ll be ready.
“What stung with me was, let’s say I go into the fight half-cooked and I lose, no-one’s gonna care for my excuses. I can’t come out afterwards and be like, ‘Yeah, but I had this injury.’ No one’s gonna give a crap,” Whittaker continued. “All they’re gonna care about is that I lost… So I’m gonna do things the right way, I just need a little bit more time.”
With the negative reactions to his decision to heal up and reach peak fitness before challenging the dangerous Vettori, Whittaker believes some fans still possess outdated mindsets when it comes to fighting.
Whittaker: Some People Haven’t Caught Up Yet
One of the co-hosts questioned why people expect athletes to commit themselves to bouts no matter the circumstances. In response, Whittaker suggested that the idea that fighters should be willing to throw down anytime and anywhere, even with injuries, is still prevalent in some parts of the fanbase.
“In the MMA community, I think it’s that mentality that is still lingering in places. I think, where fighting originated from to where it is today is a big gap,” said Whittaker. “I feel like some people haven’t caught up. It isn’t about, ‘I’ll fight anywhere, anytime’ anymore. The dudes that did that aren’t in the UFC anymore. They’re in your local scene fighting at the pub.
“If that’s the type of fight you want, that’s where you gotta go to see it, because we’re professionals at the highest level. Everything I try to do needs to be professional and at a hundred percent,” Whittaker continued. “This was just a decision that I had to make… It affected me more than anybody else… It is what it is. I need to go into fights so that people get the best Rob Whittaker.”
Whittaker concluded with a statement worthy of forming his own merchandise chain, “Nobody wants a crap Rob Whittaker.” Who can argue with that statement?
What do you make of some of the negative reactions to Robert Whittaker’s UFC 275 withdrawal?