A five-round battle of former welterweights takes place this weekend at UFC on ESPN 14’s main event, as former UFC Middleweight Champion Robert ‘The Reaper’ Whittaker takes on former UFC welterweight title challenger Darren ‘The Gorilla’ Till, and he’s ready to make a statement. The Australian took a bit of a break after his failed title defense against Israel Adesanya at UFC 243, stating that he didn’t go to the gym or anything for some time following the fight. This lit a fire back in him, a ‘craving’ to get back in the gym and compete as he put it.
“It reached a point where it was like, nah, I have to get back to work, this is what I was meant to do. This is what I was put on this planet to do, I’m sure of it. Then I started speaking to the team, telling him (coach) how I feel, the problems that I had that led me here in the first place, and just that dialogue of communication, we worked out the best system and here I am, happy as Larry.”
He went on to say he’s very excited to be fighting in Abu Dhabi, stating that part of his pleasure of fighting for a living is that he gets to travel the world and fight in front of different crowds, experiencing a part of life most people can’t. It’s truly great to see ‘The Reaper’ have his desire to train and compete back, he isn’t burnt out anymore, and that’s absolutely huge. Whittaker is at his best when he’s having fun, as he stated. It’ll be very interesting to see himself and Till go at it.
Both of these men are two of the best strikers in the sport, and both are incredibly dangerous with their strikes. Some fighters are great strikers, but generally out-point their opponents, not these two. They’re both looking to take their opponents heads off the entire time. When asked why Till was the fight he wanted, ‘The Reaper’ responded, “it just looks fun”, stating that they’re both great strikers, and they’re both head hunters.
He was also asked what his biggest weapon he has to use against Till is, and what the biggest threat Till has to offer is: “His biggest threat is his left hand, he knows that as well. The thing is, that’s why I match up so much better against him than he does with me because my biggest threat, there’s too many of them. I have so many dangerous shots, I’m so creative, I have so many angles I can exploit. He’s got his left hand, that’s all he’s got.” (Transcribed by MMA Junkie)
Surely ‘The Gorilla’ has more tools than that, but ‘The Reaper’ isn’t entirely wrong, that is Till’s best strike. He went on to say it is a very dangerous strike that’s worked on many of Till’s past opponents, and that he needs to be aware of it and respect it.
Till just moved up to middleweight in his last fight against Kelvin Gastelum, who he defeated via split decision at UFC 244. Whittaker was slated to defend his title against Gastelum a little over a year ago, but was forced out with an abdomen injury. No one was giving Till a shot in that fight, but he pulled it off, and now we get to see the No. 1 ranked middleweight contender fight the No. 5 middleweight contender.