It’s getting more and more difficult to deny Robert Whittaker a chance to reclaim the UFC middleweight championship.
“The Reaper” earned his third consecutive triumph in the UFC on ESPN 22 headliner, as he put on a brilliant striking exhibition against Kelvin Gastelum for five rounds at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night. While Whittaker’s lukewarm attitude toward a title shot might have cost him following a victory over Jared Cannonier this past October, the Sydney-based fighter made it pretty clear what he believes he deserves after besting Gastelum in impressive fashion.
“That’s kind of how I’ve always taken to the approach of fighting, is that if you beat ’em all, you’re eventually at the top,” Whittaker said. “It’s a simple path, and there is no other fight that makes sense to me other than that tile shot, and that’s the shot that I want and that I’m getting.”
After losing the 185-pound belt to Israel Adesanya via second-round knockout at UFC 243 in October 2019, Whittaker has rebounded to earn decision wins over Gastelum, Cannonier and Darren Till. Adesanya reacted to Whittaker’s victory in somewhat condescending fashion, simply posting “Good job my son” on Twitter
Good job my son.— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) April 18, 2021
Whittaker took the comment in stride because after all, Adesanya did get the better of him when they squared off in the Octagon. That alone gives him bragging rights.
“I’ve played video games my entire life; I am no stranger to trash talk,” Whittaker said. “And honestly, he gets to do it. He won the last fight between us both, so I guess it was coming, right? It’s just him being him, I guess.”
There was at least one person in attendance at UFC on ESPN 22 who doesn’t think Whittaker should be next in line for a middleweight title shot. That, of course, was Gastelum training partner Marvin Vettori, who earned his fifth straight 185-pound win with a five-round verdict against Kevin Holland one week prior. “The Italian Dream” also has the added intrigue of a split-decision loss to Adesanya earlier in his career.
Still, Whittaker says Vettori needs to work on his resume a little bit more to be considered a true No. 1 contender.
“I’ve fought nothing but No. 1 contenders,” said Whittaker. “I’ve already ran the gauntlet. Everybody that had a title shot if they beat me, I beat. That’s it.
“I like Marvin, I guess. He’s alright. But I think there’s fights he still needs to make. I don’t think he’s fought the Top 3 dudes, the Top 5 dudes, really. But he can wait his turn. Let me have my fight, and then he can fight the winner of that. Relax.”
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