UFC 271: Robert Whittaker Says It Was Never His Quest to Get Back to Title

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Houston, TX — If you take former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker at face value, chasing the title he lost to Israel Adesanya back in 2019 hasn’t been the focal point of his fighting career since.

There’s been no burning, all-consuming desire to reclaim the middleweight championship, at least not until this point. Whittaker (23-5), who faces Adesanya in a rematch atop UFC 271 this Saturday, made that clear when his journey back to this point was referred to as a “quest” during Wednesday’s UFC 271 media day.

Specifically, it was referred to as his quest.

“Has it though? Has it been my quest?” Whittaker questioned, explaining that “Honestly, since the loss I’ve been just focusing on the journey. Focusing on taking each fight as it is. I was enjoying it, I wasn’t thinking like ‘I can’t wait, I have to get back to that title shot, I have to!’ That’s why throughout the procedure, people were asking me ‘you don’t want that title shot?’ or ‘they’re saying you don’t want it?’ No. I did want it. It’s just, it wasn’t something that I was fixated on. I was working on things, I was working on myself, I was working on my game, and I was enjoying the process.”

“And I know, all roads lead to Rome, [that] sort of thing. As long as I’m winning and getting better and enjoying it, I’ll get there eventually.”

Whittaker singled out enjoyment of the process as key. He is enjoying mixed martial arts vastly more at present than he did in his first meeting with Adesanya. “This one’s much happier,” he said of the feeling ahead of the rematch. “I’m just enjoying it. I’m enjoying it, I’m a much happier person.” If he didn’t enjoy the process, continued Whittaker, then “I was not enjoying half my life, because I spend a lot of time training and fighting and in fight weeks. It’s a job, and I’m enjoying it.”

In terms of the adjustments made following the loss to Israel Adesanya, his first and only defeat since 2014, Whittaker looked both within and without to shore up his game.

“Fortunately, I’m a bit of a thinker. Sometimes unfortunately, because I think too much,” Whittaker said. “After that loss, like everyone knows, I took a step to the side of the game, and focused on myself. I did speak to a sports psychologist, and just asked them questions.”

Asked if the pressure was off with the rematch being in Houston, rather than closer to home in Australia or New Zealand, Whittaker suggested it was less of a factor than many might believe. “I think the pressure was self-imposed. I don’t think the location played as much of a role as people think it did.”

Watch the full UFC 271 media day press scrum with Robert Whittaker above.

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