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Robert Whittaker Had Never Heard of Ikram Aliskerov Before UFC Saudi Arabia Booking



Robert Whittaker is simply glad to be fighting Ikram Aliskerov even though he had never heard of his opponent before their booking was announced.

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Whittaker was originally scheduled to headline UFC on ABC 6 in Saudi Arabia against Khamzat Chimaev on June 22. However, Chimaev was replaced by newcomer Ikram Aliskerov on nine days’ notice after the Chechen-born Swede fell “violently ill.”

Whittaker claims to have found out about Chimaev pulling out at the same time as the rest of the MMA community. While “Bobby Knuckles” had prepared for months for Chimaev’s unique style, the former champ didn’t hesitate to accept a fight against an unknown opponent.

“I had a pretty Chimaev-ready game plan,” Whittaker told the New York Post Sports. “Chimaev’s a pretty unique fighter, and he fights a unique way. So I had a game plan I’d worked for months leading into that. But Ikram brings a different threat to the table. I hadn’t heard of him or seen him fight before that, so sometimes you just got to take things as they come. And yeah, I have full faith in my skill sets and my ability.”

Whittaker, who has accepted his fair share of short-notice fights in his career, doesn’t really think much of it. “The Reaper” is rather glad to have a fight still in place after months of investment.

“The key thing is I’m just thankful, to not only my team and the UFC for making the fight happen, [but] to Ikram himself,” Whittaker said. “Like I said, I’ve put in so much work to get to the fight and it would be devastating to not fight. So, the fact that I’m able to get in there and still perform and earn a living, feed my family, I’m blessed.”

Whittaker will be big step up in UFC competition for Aliskerov, who started his promotional journey with back-to-back first round finishes. UFC president CEO Dana White called it a life-changing opportunity for Aliskerov while Whittaker seemingly has everything to lose against a regional veteran whose lone career loss came against Chimaev at a Brave Combat Federation event in 2019. Regardless, Whittaker can’t be certain of an immediate title shot with a win over Aliskerov. For Whittaker, the only upside is that he gets to fight. Whittaker is currently focused on getting his hand raised against Aliskerov, which he believes is bound to open up avenues.

“This is what I do for a living. I don’t know, that is the upside,” Whittaker said. “I get to do what I’m good at and earn a decent living off it. I get to put food in the table for my family, that’s the upshot. This is what I was born to do and I’m gonna do it… Gotta win this [and] worry about everything else [later]. That’s how I approach everything, even with the Chimaev fight, it was just about winning the fight. Winning opens doors, no matter how you win, no matter who you beat, it opens doors for you, that’s the nature of the game.”
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