UFC Paris: Robert Whittaker Feels Small Gloves Will be Big Variable in Adesanya-Pereira Rematch

Paris, France — Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker was awarded his USADA letterman jacket for 50 clean drug tests on Thursday, just ahead of his time speaking at the UFC Paris media day.

It’s “just another feather in the cap,” as he put it, noting that his father once told him that “if you have to cheat to win, don’t play.”

Whittaker (23-6) hasn’t need to cheat, and was able to reach the pinnacle of the sport on his own merits. But as he enters UFC Paris, where he meets Marvin Vettori in the co-main event this Saturday, “The Reaper” is also in no man’s land.

Both Whittaker and Vettori have fallen to current champion Israel Adesanya twice. A third fight seems unlikely in either case; in turn, that means the best hope either fighter has of another title shot is Adesanya losing to Alex Pereira this fall.

“I’m not really thinking about it to be honest. My calendar only goes up to Saturday,” Whittaker told media outlets including Cageside Press on Thursday. “The only thing that I know is I’m going to be fighting Vettori on Saturday. And I’m going to leave it all there. I’m going to give it the best shot that anyone’s ever seen.”

Vettori has questioned Whittaker’s growth ahead of the fight, suggesting there has been none. The Italian suggested that in this point in their respective careers, he’s the hungrier of the two. Whittaker disputes that.

“I know why I want to win, I know why I want to beat him in particular. I know why I do what I do. There isn’t a doubt in my mind of why I’m getting in there with him on Saturday and why I’m going to leave it all in the octagon.”

And if you’ve heard the talk about Robert Whittaker leaving the middleweight division and heading up to 205lbs, just pump the brakes on that for now.

“I feel like that got taken out of context a little bit and blown out of proportion. The only move is up; I could not make it down,” he told Cageside Press. “It’s a possibility, but it isn’t something that I’m looking towards in the immediate future, just because I’m doing pretty well in the middleweight division still.”

As well, Whittaker added, “the light heavyweight division for me is a one-way move, because I’m going to do it properly. I’m going to get the muscle, get the muscle mass, get the movement right at the heavier weight, all of that jazz. If I do move up to light heavyweight it’ll be where my career finishes at, that’s the last destination for moving weight-wise. But I’m not really paying too much attention to the movement. There isn’t a lot of make me want to do that just yet.”

After all, middleweight could be a very different landscape in a few short months. While Whittaker isn’t looking past Saturday and his fight with Vettori, he admits that he’s very interested in seeing Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira face off in MMA. The two have competed twice previously, in kickboxing. Pereira won both fights.

“That’s an interesting fight. I do think it’s going to be a kickboxing fight with small gloves. You’ve got a rangy, tall defensive striker versus a rangy, tall offensive striker,” Whittaker observed. “It’s gonna be interesting. He’s very tall, he’s going to have advantages in the striking department that myself did not have, just because of the distance he can reach and the length of his arms.”

“I’m very interested in it,” the former champ added, highlighting one factor he feels could be key. “The small gloves are going to be a big variable in that fight compared to the first two fights they had against each other. So I can’t wait to see it.”

Watch the full UFC Paris media day appearance by Robert Whittaker above. The event takes place this Saturday, September 3, 2022 at the Accor Arena in Paris, France.