Things are looking up for UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
In a video released Friday by Submission Radio, Whittaker talks to a crowd in a public appearance in his Australian backyard. “The Reaper” was upbeat and discussed the staph injury and further complications that necessitated him pulling out of his title defense against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221.
UFC 221 takes place Feb. 10 at Perth Arena in Perth, Western Australia. Rockhold will now meet Yoel Romero in a UFC interim middleweight bout.
“Everyone knows I like to fight injured, half the fights I’ve taken, I’ve always been injured,” Whittaker told the crowd. “Just before I got ill, I pulled my hamstring. We could work around it and we were doing things to compensate for it, we were working around it but then I got a really bad infection and the infection and the antibiotics just took it out of me.”
Things only got worse from there.
“I was really struggling to recover and then right at the end of the infection, I got the chickenpox,” Whittaker elaborated. “That’s why I’ve got the scars all over my face. It was an absolute mess. If anyone’s had it, it’s just horrible.”
Initially, details were scant about why Whittaker had been forced out of UFC 221 until late last month when UFC President Dana White stoked fears for the worst when he revealed that Whittaker had an improperly treated staph infection in his stomach, which White said could threaten the 27-year-old’s career.
As Whittaker continues his recovery, he’s more than happy to sit back and enjoy whatever unfolds at UFC 221.
“When they offered this outcome to me, I was delighted,” said Whittaker. “The No. 1 and No. 2 contenders get to bash each other and I was just like, ‘Yes, good. Please.’ As a fan of this sport, I would’ve paid to watch this fight. This is a fight I think people want to see.”
“I’m more than happy to bash Yoel again, or I’m more than happy to give it to Rockhold, as well. We’ll see.”
Despite initial fears, Whittaker is outwardly optimistic he won’t be out more than a few months.
“I’m just focused on recovering,” said the middleweight kingpin. “I’m gonna let Yoel and Rockhold punch it out a bit, but things are good and I’m looking for a big return midyear, so let’s see what happens.”