In late February, Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight king Robert Whittaker announced that he would be representing Australia in wrestling as part of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, pending approval from the UFC.
It seems the UFC didn’t like the idea of Whittaker competing, even though he would be able to get in a full fight camp -- just less than two months -- to prepare for the fight following the games.
Whittaker’s decision to accept the fight against Yoel Romero and defend his middleweight title at UFC 225 on June 9 in Chicago ultimately sealed his fate and was the main reason the UFC put a stop to him participating.
Whittaker talked with MMA Fighting about the decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games.
”Obviously, wrestling is a vital part of mixed martial arts,” Whittaker told MMA Fighting. “I managed to compete in wrestling to sharpen my skills, one thing led to another and it led to the Commonwealth Games.”
Whittaker understandably said that the UFC told him that they would not allow him to compete at the games because of the amount of money invested in the UFC 225 promotion. Another factor was that Whittaker had already missed his first title defence at UFC 221 in Perth, Australia, and if he was injured at the games the UFC would strip him of the belt.
UFC officials also pointed out that with his growing status as a champion, he now had a target on his head from wrestlers all over the world wanting a shot at him. Joe Hendry, a wrestler in the United Kingdom, would be representing Scotland at the games and had come out publically stating one of his goals at the games was to beat Whittaker.
”The UFC wasn’t too happy with my competing in the Commonwealth Games,“ he said. “I was told I would have been stripped of the title if I had gotten injured. Everyone knows my priority. This (UFC) is my job.
”It’s not really a choice to be made,” he added. “If it’s a choice, providing finances and putting food on the table and being paid for my job, or competing in the Commonwealth Games where I’m not making money, is there really a choice to be made? I thought for an hour or two, but there was never a choice to be made.”
It seems the timing of the decision not to allow Whittaker to compete has frustrated one person associated with the Australian team as it is three weeks before the start of the games and now the Australian team are without a 213-pound competitor in a major competition which will be hosted on home soil.
Whittaker has finally recovered from the serious staph infection in his stomach which forced him to withdraw from his title defense at UFC 221 against Luke Rockhold.
”I’m 100 percent right now,” Whittaker said. “I’ve gotten some of the best weeks of training. I really believe when I step into the Octagon in June, you’ll see the best version of Robert Whittaker ever.”
When asked if Whittaker would consider competing at the Olympics in wrestling in 2020.
”I haven’t really given it much thought,” he said. “My priority is MMA. That’s what my focus and passion and where my dedication is.”