As we approach UFC 243 on Saturday, things are heating up ahead of the middleweight title unification fight between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya.
With media duties going into overdrive for the pair, one question that seems to be prominent is whether Whittaker is taking any of Adesanya’s jabs personally.
“The Last Stylebender” has not held back when talking about Whittaker over the last few months, but the latter doesn’t seem to be affected at all. He even finds Adesanya’s comments funny.
Whittaker’s coach Fabricio Itte doesn’t think the rivalry is personal either.
“I don’t feel anything personal, you know what I mean? Like, Rob doesn’t neither,” he said in a recent interview with Submission Radio. “To be honest with you man, if Israel wasn’t fighting Rob, I’d go for Israel. But I can’t pick a fight because I always go for New Zealanders if it’s not an Australian in there.”
One aspect Adesanya has brought up is how the New Zealand-born Whittaker has no connection to New Zealand. Whittaker moved to Australia when he was an infant but represents both countries and is proud of his heritage. However, Adesanya has claimed that “The Reaper” disowned New Zealand and is completely Australian.
The UFC is also seemingly cashing in on the rivalry between the two nations, particularly mentioning it in the introduction of their UFC 243 Countdown show.
But for Itte, the whole narrative is overblown as he feels there isn’t even a friendly rivalry between the two nations, let alone a heated one.
“Dude it’s fucking stupid,” he said. “They were the ANZACs. The history of Australia and New Zealand is like the ANZACs. So, if someone from like Australia isn’t fighting a particular someone from Sydney, I always go for New Zealanders.
“Like, I always go for New Zealanders. So, I don’t have like a… and the whole thing, like, I watched it and it’s like two rival nations. And if I go overseas and I see New Zealanders, I go, oh, it’s like, I feel like a New Zealander. I don’t feel that [there’s a rivalry]. I’ve never felt that like kind of… I don’t even feel a friendly rivalry.”
While there might not be a heated rivalry according to Itte, one can still expect a partisan Whittaker crowd at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.