Rob Whittaker: UFC 243 ‘was never country vs country. It’s me vs Izzy’

Sydney raised Robert Whittaker has always dreamed of fighting in the UFC. This weekend the middleweight champion will get to headline a card in what is expected to be one of the biggest combat sports events in Australian history.

Whittaker (20-4) and interim champion Israel Adesanya (17-0) will clash in front of a crowd expected to be over 50,000 in a bout that was marketed as Australia vs New Zealand.

“The UFC will push anything they need to, to sell tickets. For me personally, it was never country versus country. It’s me versus Izzy. Great fighter versus great fighter. That’s the way it was always going to be,” Whittaker told a packed media crowd at Friday’s UFC 243 media day.

Despite not having fought since June 2018, the 28-year-old BJJ Brown Belt is not calling this weekend’s bout a comeback. Whittaker claims he has never gone anywhere.

“It’s funny. I’ve heard several reporters and media call mention a comeback. Where did I go? I’ve only been gone for about 14-months. I went to fight in February. It was just unfortunate circumstances that happened. It’s not as if, I retired and disappeared, said I’m done. I’ve always been here. Been training, been competing. Never left.”

A family man who likes to relax by playing video games, Whittaker naturally switches once that cage door locks.

“I think there are switches. When I enter the Octagon, I’m me, but I show a different side of me. I don’t take a new name or anything. But when I get in there, I go cold. I know the warrior in me comes out and is there to stay.

“It’s natural. My body knows when it’s time to fight, it’s ready.”

Started Martial Arts training after watching Mr Miyagi and Daniel-son in Karate Kid back in 1987. By the time MMA arrived many years later, I was hooked. Coverage of local MMA was via scarce posts on forums like the Underground and Sherdog. I embarked on covering the sport in 2002 and since then have written thousands of articles for both print and online media, before branching out and starting Fight News Australia in 2010. Outside the site, I dream of riding in an F1 car.