Robert Whittaker reacts to Khamzat Chimaev’s UFC Saudi Arabia withdrawal: ‘It was a little frustrating’

Robert Whittaker reacts to Khamzat Chimaev's UFC Saudi Arabia withdrawal: It was a little frustrating'

Robert Whittaker is still thankful for the opportunity to headline the UFC’s highly anticipated debut in Saudi Arabia.

Originally, ‘The Reaper’ was set to square off with undefeated Chechen monster Khamzat Chimaev in what would have likely been a middleweight title eliminator. However, on Thursday, rumors began to swirl that ‘Borz’ was out of the bout due to an undisclosed illness.

Khamzat Chimaev

Hours later, Dana White confirmed the news, revealing that streaking standout Ikram Aliskerov would step in and square off with Whittaker in Riyadh.

“Mate, when I knew it wasn’t happening (is when I found out). There weren’t any rumors or anything,” Whittaker told from Dubai. “It was just that Khamzat is out, and then what’s going on now? It was a little frustrating, I spent like three months working a very specific gameplan for a very specific opponent, obviously Chimaev doesn’t fight like a lot of people, I really tailored the fight camp to that fighting style. I’m still fit, I’m still razor sharp.”

“I flew out here and I understand I’m the main event of the card that comes with a level of responsibility, it’s how I earn my living. I wanted to fight, I wanted the show to go on, and I wanted to do my job, so hats off to Ikram for taking the fight, and to the UFC for setting it up, and I look forward to putting on a show.”

Robert Whittaker

Robert Whittaker never once considered backing out after chimaev’s exit

Even after getting the news of Chimaev’s withdrawal, Whittaker never once considered backing out of the event and was ready to fight any man willing to sign on the dotted line.

“Mate, there was no thought to not fight,” Whittaker said. “That is my job, that is what I flew across the world to do, and that is how I put bread on the table for my family. I understand I am the main event, a lot of eyes. It’s the first card in Saudi Arabia, so I want to be a part of that.”

Robert Whittaker

Coming off a first-round knockout victory over Warlley Alves at UFC 294 in October, Ikram Aliskerov will make his third walk to the Octagon on June 22 inside Kingdom Arena. As it stands, Aliskerov is far outside the middleweight top 15, but all of that could change should he score what would likely become one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

“There weren’t a lot of names thrown around, nobody would take it, it was too short notice,” Whittaker said. “I understand the level of danger Ikram brings in. He is a guy coming in last minute, he was fighting this weekend, so he’s ready, he has nothing to lose, everything to gain, and he has a dangerous skillset.”

Ikram Aliskerov