Robert Whittaker had a lot on his mind going into his eventual UFC 243 title defeat to Israel Adesanya in October last year.
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For one, he was heading into his first fight in 16 months after having to pull out of his contest with Kelvin Gastelum earlier that year due to an abdominal hernia and a twisted and collapsed bowel on the day of the weigh-ins.
As he would later reveal, he was feeling burned out at the time due to overtraining as he felt he had let people down by pulling out of his second fight in as many years.
And to make matters worse, he had to deal with the trash talk of Adesanya.
That trash talking seemingly played a key factor in Whittaker not liking “The Last Stylebender” and according to him, was the “cherry on top” of everything going inside his mind in the buildup to the fight.
“I think it was one more thing that piled on top,” Whittaker told MMA Tonight. “One more thing we threw on top of a pile of an already huge clutter mess of what was going on in my head. And certainly, I can’t discount the fact that side of it, as well as the hype and the buildup and the attention me and him were receiving in Australia. … The size of the event, the size of the venue — it was a massive thing. It just blew everything up to bigger proportions.
“I’m certain it did play a factor. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But I think it was the cherry on top, not so much the driving factor.”
Whittaker went on to add that all the various press conferences with Adesanya felt like “political battles” to appease the fans and that wasn’t what the sport was about for him.
And while “The Reaper” is not one to trash talk, he feels he would be decent at it — if that’s what mixed martial arts called for.
“If the word battle was the game, I’m pretty sure I could be decent at that, but that’s not the game,” Whittaker added. “You can easily be led astray. You can lose focus because it feels like you’re doing two jobs instead of one.”
Following back-to-back wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, Whittaker could be set to deal with the trash talk again as it looks like he is on course for a rematch with Adesanya.
This time, however, Whittaker will be in a better place mentally as well as physically and feels he has certain tricks he can roll out.
🔊 "If the word battle was the game, I'm pretty sure I could be decent at that, but that's not the game." 💪@robwhittakermma tells @RJcliffordMMA & @MieshaTate exactly what role Israel Adesanya's trash-talk played in their fight. pic.twitter.com/1VVMbs0twi
— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) October 30, 2020