Robert Whittaker took his defeat to Israel Adesanya on the chin.
“The Reaper” lost his middleweight title after getting knocked out by Adesanya in the second round of their UFC 243 headliner earlier this month. Despite his first loss since 2014, Whittaker offered no excuses and maintained he felt the best he ever did coming into the fight.
He is still naturally disappointed at his own performance but sees a silver lining nearly three weeks since the setback.
“It is what it is and, you know, obviously I think the two biggest emotions that I have coming off the fight is just, you know, disappointed, but also excited,” Whittaker said on Submission Radio. “They’re the two biggest directions I’m heading. I’m disappointed to have gotten the loss.
“Obviously, it’s easy to look reflectively and see the fight from the outside and see the things you could have done differently, but I’m excited for what this will turn me into because I’ve lost before. Everybody loses. They do. And on the back of my losses before, I came back much, much better. So, I really do look forward to what the future brings.”
One person who was not impressed by the Aussie’s showing was Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum was supposed to fight for Whittaker’s title at UFC 234 earlier this year. However, Whittaker was hospitalized the night before the fight.
Gastelum would then face Adesanya for the interim title at UFC 236, losing in a back-and-forth five-round battle. And after seeing how Whittaker fared against Adesanya, compared to himself, Gastelum is certain that he would have emerged victorious against the former champion had they fought.
“I think it was rather disappointing the way that he performed,” Gastelum told MMA Fighting. “The reason I say that is I feel like I was robbed of an opportunity, and for him to go out there and perform the way that he did, was rather disappointing for me. I think I would’ve dropped him like a sack of potatoes in February and he robbed me of that opportunity.”
So what does Whittaker think of the criticism?
“Nah, I’m not surprised,” he said of Gastelum’s comments. “The game and the culture around it, is everyone just wants to shit on each other. And yeah, it’s sad. It’s sad that people have to try and shit on each other to move up in the world.
“Like, I think I’ve shown, you don’t have to do that. But maybe he would have. We’ll see. We’re still quite young, both me and him, and I’m sure our paths will cross.”
Gastelum faces the middleweight-debuting Darren Till at UFC 244 on November 2 next. And despite receiving harsh words from him, Whittaker still gives Gastelum the edge over the former welterweight title challenger.
“I’m gonna be watching it closely, cause they’re very likely opponents in the future,” Whittaker added. “But I would have to say, I would have to lean towards Gastelum because I think he’s a super underrated fighter in the middleweight division. But he’s very sneaky in his approach to closing the distance and his approach in landing the strikes. He’s quite quick.
“We’ll have to see how Till makes the transition to middleweight. That’s always a big question mark for me, watching guys jump up. So, I’ll have to lean towards Gastelum at this point.”