UFC 271: Robert Whittaker admits fighting angry and ‘ego’ were downfall in first fight against Israel Adesanya

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robert whittaker
Jun 9, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) defeats Yoel Romero (blue gloves) during UFC 225 at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Whittaker is well aware of what cost him in his 2019 championship loss to Israel Adesanya, and he hopes to make amends for it next month in the main event of UFC 271.

UFC 243 was a night Whittaker (23-5) and his supporters wish they could forget. His UFC middleweight title fight against Adesanya (21-1) was a highly anticipated matchup between two of the best 185-pound fighters the sport had seen over the last decade. However, the bout turned into a showcase for “The Last Stylebender” as he dispatched the reigning champion with relative ease in less than two rounds.

In an interview with MMAJunkie this week, to talk about the rival’s rematch on Feb. 12 at UFC 271, “Reaper” was asked about where he went wrong on that fateful night over two years ago. And the Australian kept it pretty simple when explaining what led to just the second knockout loss of his 28-fight career.

Robert Whittaker admits anger and ego were his downfall against Israel Adesanya

“Getting hit in the face. Definitely that one,” Whittaker said with a laugh when explaining his biggest failings at UFC 243. “I was recklessly charging in. I was falling into every one of his baits, every one of his traps. And just stubbornly trying to press forward, press the attack, and rip his head off. That’s all that was going through my head, and it didn’t work. That’s not how I usually fight and I have addressed it.”

The reason why Whittaker says he fought so foolishly was that the trash talk from Adesanya in the lead-up to the fight got to him. Despite others trying the same tactic and failing, “Bobby Knuckles” confesses this time it worked, and he handled the pre-fight antics poorly and took it with him into fight night.

robert whittaker
Jun 9, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) before his fight against Yoel Romero (blue gloves) during UFC 225 at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

“Other opponents have tried it. I think it was a whole host of different things that got into my head. And it was a lot of things on my end on how I handled them, and how I took them and made it worse. I think he even mentioned that my ego was something that affected me. And you know what, as much as I don’t want to acknowledge my opponent for insight, my ego probably was a big thing,” said Whittaker.

“It was a big part of why my headspace wasn’t where it should’ve been for that fight. Why I was letting the debate between Australia and New Zealand get to me. Why I was letting all these little things get to me. I guess it showed,” he continued. “In the results, it showed in how I was behaving, the way I put the fight together, and the way I was fighting in the moment. I’ve acknowledged all of that, and as you can see I’ve come to terms with all of that.”

Could we see ‘Rober the Wrestler’ at UFC 271?

Although Whittaker is one of the best strikers in the promotion, he is a well-rounded talent, and he has shown more of his various tools in recent wins of ranked fighter Jared Cannonier and Darren Till. The 31-year-old was asked if grappling might factor more into his rematch with Adesanya, and while he revealed getting Adesanya on the mat would be beneficial, he will use his tools based on the opportunities he gets during the fight.

“I would love to be able to get him on his back and to work on the ground. It’s no secret that the greatest advantage anyone would have with Izzy is on his back. Where he can’t use his long arms and long legs,” he said. Am I going to focus on just that? That’s anybody’s guess because I can strike with the best of them as well. My whole headspace is to utilize the tools and the opportunities that I’m given in this fight. And I think that sums it up pretty well. More or less, a little less of what happened in the first fight.

UFC 271 takes place on Feb. 12 inside the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The main card will air exclusively on ESPN+ for $74.99.

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