Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has been his usual calm self in the face of a barrage of trash talking coming from his opponent, Israel Adesanya, whom he meets on Oct. 5 at UFC 243. Despite the one-sided nature of the trash talk, Whittaker warned his opponent that just because he isn’t saying much, doesn’t mean he’s taking him lightly.
Adesanya secured his shot at Whittaker with a fight-of-the-year performance against Kelvin Gastelum back in April at UFC 236. The Nigerian-born New-Zealand based fighter edged out Gastelum to claim a unanimous decision victory and secure an interim title at 185 pounds.
In the lead up to UFC 243, “The Last Stylebender” has been heavily critical of the Australian champion for his lack of activity in the Octagon and has made it his personal mission to drum up interest for the fight.
Whittaker was a guest on Submission Radio and said he “encourages” his opponent promoting their fight but doesn’t want to engage in any pre-fight trash talk.
“The thing is, I haven’t done anything differently. I haven’t changed,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “Yeah, he’s just gotten mouthy. I guess he had to to get the title shot, which he got due to his performances in the Octagon and the way he sells his fights. Which is all props to him. I think that’s great the way he did it. And that’s kind of how he sells fights and how he does stuff. But that’s him, though. I’m not playing like that. We’re not cool. Like, you can sell the fight, and I’m happy for you to sell the fight. Actually, I encourage it. But I’m not a part of that little game. Like, we’re not cool.
“We’re not cool. Like, I’ll be civil. Like, what am I, an animal? Like, I’ll be civil with him, but I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to talk to him, and yeah, we’re not like, we’re not friends.”
The pair faced-off for the first time at the UFC summer news conference and Whittaker believes it just solidified how seriously he was taking the fight once they were eye to eye.
“He definitely saw it. He saw I’m not playing,” Whittaker said. “But he’s a smart guy. He’s a smart guy with a lot of experience. He already knew I’m not playing. He knew the stakes, and he knows how serious this fight is. He knows how hard I’m going to come out regardless of what he says. That’s just how it is. You don’t get to where he is by underestimating everybody. He’s had a lot of experience. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot that I found out or what I saw, because I was ready for it all. I’m ready for this.”
Whittaker emphasized that just because he doesn’t engage in the pre-fight trash talk, doesn’t mean he is taking his opponent lightly and stressed that this is not a game to him and he’ll be coming at Adesanya when they meet in October.
“Let me clear something up quickly: Just because I don’t talk trash, and I’m not mouthy, and I’m not mouthing off like I’m in the school yard, doesn’t mean I don’t take this for what it is,” Whittaker said. “I am doing everything in my power to break you, because we are going to go fight in an Octagon. And I don’t play this. This isn’t a game to me. I treat this as if this would be my last fight ever, and I always have. And I don’t need to smack talk to get in that mind frame, I’m already there.
“Like, we’re going to go fight to the death in so many months’ time, and I’m going to give everything I have. I just don’t smack talk, though. But don’t misinterpret that for me not taking the fight seriously. You can see every one of my opponents when we have the first faceoff or when we come face to face after the fight’s been announced, they know. They know that, ‘OK, this guy isn’t playing.’ I’m not playing. It’s not a game.”