Robert Whittaker is not feeding into narratives of retribution ahead of his second fight against Israel Adesanya at UFC 271. Whittaker has a chance to avenge a one-sided loss to Adesanya and reclaim his UFC middleweight title at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday, Feb. 12. His approach to the fight, however, is business as usual.
Whittaker put his head down and got back to work following a second-round knockout loss to Adesanya at UFC 243 in October 2019. He beat Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum en route to a title rematch. The former champion told CBS Sports' Brian Campbell in an interview for "Morning Kombat" that his workman-like approach was key to reclaiming gold.
"No, you see. That's the biggest change is that there isn't a chip. There isn't any of that revenge drive," Whittaker said. "It's just another day in the office. I have the same mentality, it feels the exact same as the last three fights. I'm going in there to just get my work done."
Check out the full interview with Robert Whittaker below.
Whittaker (23-5) conceded that he was too emotionally and mentally invested in the first fight. He was out to teach Adesanya (21-1) a lesson.
"Yeah, that's exactly how it was. Much to my [demise]," Whittaker said. "That's how it was. It was personal. It got too much. It started to consume me. The fight started to consume me. The media started getting to me. Everything just started building up.
"Honestly, I'm going to look to get in there and just execute my game plan. I think the game plan and my skill set is enough to beat him. I have absolute confidence in that. I look to get in there and just execute."
Shak's take: Whittaker has always been disinterested in the drama and storylines that fuel the entertainment aspects of combat sports. A shining representative of martial arts' core values, it may serve Whittaker well to not feed into the charismatic Adesanya's mind games.
More UFC news, rumors
- Amanda Nunes assures there are no hard feelings with her longtime camp of American Top Team. Nunes parted ways with her ATT following her shocking loss to Julianna Pena at UFC 269. At a recent press conference, Nunes explained it was a decision long on her mind. "I always wanted to have a little private space for me. Because even at American Top Team, I always did my things separated. I had my time to go, and I had my coaches there waiting for me to help me with my camp. It was always like that," Nunes said on a media call for The Ultimate Fighter season 30. "I want to see all my teachings on the wall, put up my logo, all those things that a lot of fighters want to do that at some point in their career. I feel like this is the moment for me. I want to go on my own for a little bit... American Top Team, together we did amazing things. All the coaches, the gym, the owner Dan Lambert -- I feel like we did everything for each other. But now for me, for my head, for now, I feel like I should go do what I really want."
- Shak's take: Changes in camp can have a meaningful impact on a fighter's trajectory. There is no one size fits all system for good coaching. If Nunes can surround herself with the right people, and heal up from injuries she had going into the first Pena fight, she has a strong chance of reclaiming her belt.
- Kamaru Usman is recovering from hand surgery. Usman underwent surgery to repair a ligament in his hand. UFC president Dana White shared graphic images of the before-and-after on Monday via Instagram. Usman's manager Ali Abdelaziz told ESPN the same day that the UFC welterweight champion will be ready to fight at this year's International Fight Week. The correlating pay-per-view card is UFC 276 and lands on Saturday, July 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- Shak's take: That is one gnarly image. Usman's likely next opponents are Leon Edwards, who is long overdue for a title shot, the winner of Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad, and Khamzat Chimaev should he win a rumored matchup against Gilbert Burns.