Heading into UFC 254, reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya had his eye on Jared Cannonier as the division’s next No. 1 contender – all Cannonier had to do was do his part and defeat Robert Whittaker.
That proved to be easier said than done, however, as Whittaker was superior over the course of three rounds in a unanimous decision triumph in Saturday’s co-main event at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi. Since relinquishing the middleweight crown to Adesanya at UFC 243, “The Reaper” has posted back-to-back triumphs over Cannonier and Darren Till in a matter of three months.
That seems to have re-established Whittaker as the top contender at 185 pounds – at least in the eyes of UFC president Dana White.
“It’s [a rematch between Whittaker and Adesanya] very appealing to me. It’s a fight that makes sense right now,” White said at the UFC 254 post-fight press conference. “Adesanya has a lot of options, but the fight that makes the most sense is Whittaker. I thought Cannonier was gonna be a much tougher challenger for him. He looked good tonight. The Adesanya fight makes sense.”
For his part, Whittaker is content to wait for a little while to get his rematch. The ex-champ has a baby on the way in January and doesn’t want to take any focus away from that in the coming months.
“He’s a tough fight man, but I’m stoked to fight him. He’s a hard fight. He only looked better in his last fight – and the fact he beat me once already,” Whittaker said. “But I feel I’ve got a couple tricks I can roll out. I feel like I can play it differently. I know he’s trying to do everything else. I’m not thinking about him. Maybe me and him should not think about it for a little bit, let him go up to light heavyweight…whatever he wants to do, it doesn’t bother me.”
Regardless of when it takes place, Whittaker believes he is destined to lock horns with Adesanya again someday.
“I do want to fight him one day, whether it’s in my career or in the parking lot as two old fellas. I think our paths will cross again,” he said. “As a warrior, it’s something I need to do. I’m not worried about who I fight next. My whole mentality with this game is you line ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em down. I’m pretty good at that.”
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