At UFC 234, Robert Whittaker was set to defend his middleweight title against Kelvin Gastelum. Unfortunately, Whittaker suffered a serious abdominal hernia shortly before the fight and was forced into emergency surgery. In the aftermath, Gastelum was rebooked against Israel Adesanya for an interim title at UFC 236. That didn’t work out well for Gastelum who lost a unanimous decision to Adesanya in a Fight of the Year frontrunner. Now, Adesanya and Whittaker are on a collision course with one another and with rumors swirling that the two will unify their UFC middleweight titles in October, let the trash talk begin.
Speaking recently with Submission Radio, Adesanya addressed his increasingly heated relationship with Whittaker and Whittaker’s contention that because Gastelum posed problems for Adesanya, he would be able to pose even more problems.
“Come on, let’s keep it real,” Adesanya said. “Kelvin, what he did, we’ve already figured it out. Two days after [the fight] me and Eugene [Bareman] were like – cause Eugene hit me up, he was like, f*ck, and he told me what it was. And I was like, ah, that’s right. . . Hindsight is a powerful weapon, and yeah, I’m really good at rematches, let’s put it that way. But Robert, Robert said a lot of things. Come on, everyone’s said a lot of things since my debut. Blah blah blah, I overcome that. Blah blah blah, I overcome that.
“I know for a fact he didn’t want to fight me. I know for a fact he’d rather have fought Kelvin. And he can say, oh, I can hit him too, I’m quicker, I’m faster. This is all what people say. Eventually we’re going to fight. And when we’re gonna fight and you’re across the cage from me, it’s a different story. Kelvin was the one saying I don’t have no pop in my punches. He found that out in round two. Like, I was popping off. And then round five, f*cking popcorn everywhere.”
Whittaker and Adesanya have had a cordially contentious relationship since Adesanya’s rise through the UFC ranks started just 16 months ago. It’s the kind of rivalry born of two men who believe themselves to be the best, but who are bound by civility. Whittaker’s trash talking has consisted mostly of saying that Adesanya is not as good as he thinks he is, a truly savage burn. But Adesanya thinks his presence and most brash personality is starting to crack the cool stoicism of Whittaker.
“Robert can say whatever he wants to say – he’s this, he’s that, I’m faster, I can make it a little quicker. I’m like, alright, ok, sure. We’re gonna fight. The fight’s already sold, I don’t have to say anything. He even started making memes. I’m like, who the f*ck taught you how to make memes? Who the f*ck told you how to make memes? Like, keep that same energy and don’t try and change what got you to the dance. Like, you’re trying to clown me? Do you want to get meme’d? N*gga, I’m the meme majesty. I will bury him if I have to. I already made him look like a f*cking chocolate bar. That’s the only Whittaker that’s New Zealand-owned and made. That’s that chocolate – with it’s roots from Africa, by the way, that dark coco.
“But yeah, don’t try and come up here and try, ‘oh, I’m gonna hype the fight now, make a meme, talk some sh*t’. Like, seriously, keep that same energy. Like, Eugene said it right in the interview. He said I’m making him change his character. And yo, that’s weird. That’s already a tell for me. But hey, like I said, we can talk all the sh*t we want. We’re gonna sit across from each other at some point and talk some sh*t at a press conference, but eventually he’s gonna stand in front of me and he’s gonna… we’ll see. Cause I already know, but we’ll see.”
But with a rough timeline now set out for their fight, Adesanya has bigger fish to fry than worrying about Whittaker’s newfound trash talk. “The Last Stylebender” says he’s much more worried about Whittaker actually making it to the fight. After all, “Bobby Knuckles” has had a rough time defending his belt recently.
“I’m going to put a wager out there and see if he makes it to the fight,” Adesanya said. “Cause for me, I’m keeping that same energy with the way I train. If he is… is he gonna make it to the fight? So, I’m prepared for him, but I don’t know if he’s gonna make it to the fight. That’s just history.”
“They should put a wager on ‘will Robert make it to this fight? Will he pull out of this fight?’ and put odds on that based on all his other fights. That should be a new wager that gets added to the odds.”
Adesanya has a point. Despite winning the title in July 2017, he Whittaker has yet to actually defend the belt. His one fight since then, a rematch with Yoel Romero, was not a title defense as Romero missed weight. Whittaker has been forced out of two different title fights in the meantime. And if Whittaker goes for the hattrick? When Whittaker pulled out of his defense against Gastelum at the eleventh hour, Gastelum proclaimed himself the true champion, and it sounds like Adesanya may feel similarly.
“Also, one thing I realize, how the f*ck is he champion when he’s the interim champion?,” Adesanya said. “How did he win the interim belt off Romero and he got the unified belt? Who did he beat? Has he defended his belt? How? He was the interim champ. He is the interim champ. He never actually won the real belt. He never actually won the real belt. He was the interim champ and still is the interim champ. And he hasn’t really done much work. I’ve has six fights in one year, what has he done the last three years? So, if they want to keep throwing that interim sh*t around – cause I checked my belt, it don’t say no interim. And my belt’s on that new flex.”
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