Whittaker on Improving Wages: ‘It’s Hard in a Sport Where Everybody Hates Each Other’

By Jacob Debets Oct 4, 2019


The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 243 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Robert Whittaker may not be a big fan of doing interviews, but he looks uncharacteristically comfortable at the UFC 243 media day. Surrounded by press for the better part of an hour, Whittaker addressed a long list of issues -- many of them repeated over the course of the scrum -- from his involvement with the Gracie Aboriginal Pathways program to the contrived Australia versus New Zealand narrative the Ultimate Fighting Championship is pushing.

Part of the reason he’s so calm and collected? He’s heading into Sunday morning’s main event with an extreme level of confidence, having gone through what he describes as the best camp of his life and rocking a physique that he describes, with a wide grin, as “yolked.” With a punishing year behind him, over which he struggled with injuries and a crippling battle with depression, he’s ready to commence the next chapter of his career, and that starts with beating Israel Adesanya.

Talking to Sherdog.com, the man affectionately nicknamed “Bobby Knuckles” addressed Adesanya’s beefs with Jon Jones and Paulo Henrique Costa, the state of the middleweight division and the ongoing conversation around fighter pay.

“I don’t think he’s looking past me,” Whittaker said when asked about Adesanya flirting with moving up to fight Jon Jones or Stipe Miocic. “He just seems to have… he just doesn’t like a lot of people.”

Asked to address the depth of the 185-pound weight class, with the likes of Costa, Jared Cannonier, Kelvin Gastelum and Darren Till, Whittaker said he’s set on cleaning out the division.

“Yeah. I want to fight everybody; why not?” He said with a smile. “Every year’s busy mate. Before this new generation, there was a [different] generation. I got through them, let’s see about the next one.”

Whittaker, who has criticized the UFC pay structure on his podcast and in a fiery interview with the Sydney Morning Herald last year, further confirmed that his thoughts on the issue haven’t changed, but that solidarity amongst fighters was sorely lacking.

“I would like more fighter pay, I think that would be great,” he said. “Not only for myself, but for a lot of the up and coming fighters. Guys breaking into the UFC can barely focus on just training. This is the highest level of fighting -- I don’t see how that’s even a thing.

“Mate, I’m just one man,” he said when asked whether he saw himself as an advocate for better pay and conditions. “I’m speaking about it, which is something, but I’m just one man. I think it will take a united front to get any real movement, which is hard in a sport where everyone hates each other.”

Jacob Debets is a law graduate and writer from Melbourne, Australia. He is currently writing a book analyzing the economics and politics of the MMA industry. You can view more of his writing at jacobdebets.com. Advertisement

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