Robert Whittaker has had a lot of time to reflect on what happened against Israel Adesanya.
The former UFC Middleweight Champion would lose his belt to Adesanya at UFC 243 back in 2019. Since then, Whittaker has made his title contention case undeniable with three straight wins.
Ego Played A Factor
‘The Reaper’ will now reap a chance to get his title back from the hands of his rival. Before he meets Adesanya at UFC 271 on February 12th, he takes some time to think about what went wrong for him in their first meeting.
”Other opponents have tried (to get in my head like Adesanya),” Whittaker told MMA Junkie. “I think it was a whole host of different things that got into my own head, and there was a lot of things on my end. It’s the way I handled them and the way I took them that made it worse.”
While Whittaker was beat physically by Adesanya, he might have already been beat mentally heading into the fight.
“I think (Adesanya) even mentioned it – that my ego was something that affected me. As much as I don’t want to acknowledge my opponent for insight, my ego probably was a big thing, was a big part of why my head space 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…
“It showed. The results of that showed in the way I was behaving, in the way I put the fight together and the way I was fighting in the moment. I’ve acknowledged all of that and you can see obviously I’ve come to terms with all of that and I’m a different fighter now than I was then.”
Accepting the fact that he wasn’t in the right headspace, allows him to adapt and overcome that issue. Whittaker is taking it all in. Corrections have to be made to ensure the second time around goes in favor for him.
Along with the mental not working, the physical would fall as well. Whittaker’s game plan didn’t pan out as well, as Adesanya quickly countered and played sniper with him. The aggressive Australian would be no match for the champ’s slick striking. A new approach has to be taken in the rematch.
“Getting hit in the face – definitely that one (was my biggest mistake),” Whittaker said. “(But) probably my recklessness – 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, trying to press the attack, (and) rip his head off. That’s what was going through my head, and it didn’t work. It didn’t work. That’s not how I usually fight. You don’t see me fight like that in a lot of my other fights, forever.
“I have addressed it. I’ve reflected on it, and we’re going to try to get in there and do something different this next time.”
Adesanya recently said that he noticed Whittaker acknowledge why he lost to him. The current champion said that other former foes such as Marvin Vettori and Paulo Costa made excuses for their loss, but ‘Bobby Knuckles’ is taking it on the chin.
Whittaker, being the gamer he is, has surely leveled up in his last trio of performances. He has been unstoppable since his setback to ‘The Last Stylebender’. Hopefully for him, his new and improved style will overcome the champion.
“The only time I feel as an athlete you can correct yourself, you can do better, you can get better, is when you acknowledge your mistakes. That’s what I’ve been doing since that first loss (to Adesanya). And every fight since that loss, I’ve been putting things together, acknowledging what I could do better, what I did wrong, what I could change, and it’s all led me to here.
“I’m very excited to get in there and put my skills to the test again.”