Robert Whittaker has revealed he turned down the chance to rematch Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title at UFC 263 on June 12.
‘The Last Stylebender’ will instead fight surging Italian contender, Marvin Vettori, who is fresh off a five-round decision win over Kevin Holland.
Whittaker told ESPN he was offered a title fight in the aftermath of his win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24 but had to turn it down as he wouldn’t be ready to fight in June.
“I was offered the fight about an hour after my fight with Gastelum,” Whittaker said. “There was just no way, physically, I could do that. Not only do I have injuries from that last fight to deal with, I have to fly home to Australia, and then two weeks in [mandatory] isolation. I have to see how my body was feeling, and then I’d have to prepare; all by June. It was impossible.”
‘The Reaper’ believes Adesanya wanting to fight him in June is tactical.
“I can see what Izzy is trying to do,” Whittaker said. “He’s trying to get me to accept the fight injured, on short notice, with all odds against me, but there was just no way I could get there physically. I do want that fight, and my next fight will be for the title. It has to be. He was just really adamant about fighting on that date and I can’t do it. I’m happy to fight the winner after.”
Whittaker doesn’t really care who wins at UFC 263. He’ll be happing to see Adesanya and Vettori knock chunks out of each other.
“It’s hard to say, isn’t it?” Whittaker said. “Their first fight in 2018 was pretty close. I think Izzy is really good. I could see Izzy taking that fight. But Vettori is tough as nails and he seems to take high-level opponents to a place where they are uncomfortable because of his resilience and toughness. Plus, he has a good skill set. I think Vettori will know what to expect from Adesanya this time, because he knows the level of striking he brings. In saying that, however, I do think Adesanya has gotten better since the last time they fought. So, I guess I’m on the fence.
“I don’t care who wins. Whatever. I hope they beat the hell out of each other to be honest.”
Do you think Robert Whittaker was right to turn down a title shot?