When Robert Whittaker withdrew from his planned UFC 248 bout with Jared Cannonier, the rumors began to fly. The former middleweight champion had withdrawn from a couple of bouts in the past, but it typically came with an injury designation. This time, it was "personal reasons". One rumor claimed that Whittaker withdrew so that he could donate bone marrow to his daughter. With Whittaker absent in the media, these rumors continued unchecked.
"All my kids were fine," Whittaker told The Daily Telegram, breaking his silence. "They are fine."
The reality of Whittaker's absence was far less dramatic. He was simply burned out after years of giving everything to the sport. The realization hit him as he ran Wanda Dunes on Christmas Day rather than spending time with his family.
"Every time I missed an event, or had to leave early, whenever I trained through Easter, or ran Wanda dunes on another Christmas Day, each one became like suffering a knock. Every time it was another knock, another knock, another knock."
Whittaker lost the middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in October, suffering a brutal second-round knockout. The loss snapped a nine-fight winning streak for Whittaker, a streak that began after he suffered back-to-back losses. Rededicating himself and moving up in weight brought him tremendous success, but came at a huge personal cost, leading Whittaker to say, "I was completely burnt out."
Whittaker has now hit the pause button on his career, waiting until he works out how to address the mental strain that has been affecting him for nearly two years.
It is not, however, the end of his fighting career.
"I love fighting, and it is something I'm good at," Whittaker said. "But you can't keep fighting like I was trying to."
More UFC news, rumors
- In late March, Aljamain Sterling shot down talk he would be taking a fight during the coronavirus pandemic. Sterling told MMA Fighting that his girlfriend had tested positive for the virus in a recent interview. Now that she has recovered, Sterling is ready to start preparing for the planned fight with Cory Sandhagen. "I wasn't prepared and I wasn't in any position to get prepared at the time. I'm getting prepared now. ... At this point it's just kind of waiting on the UFC and waiting for the date and the contract. Right now, I'm preparing like I have a fight and it looks like Cory Sandhagen is the guy on the list. Now I'm just getting myself ready to whip some ass."
- Bellator women's flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, her older sister and a former classmate have filed a lawsuit against a former school basketball coach and Punahou School alleging sexual abuse. "My sister reported him to the school right when it happened and they swept it under the rug," Macfarlane detailed in a lengthy Instagram post. "Punahou knew I was a victim and witness to my own sister's abuse and didn't even bother to check on me. As a result, we were retaliated against by him and the basketball program and had to see him everyday, still allowed on campus around minors."
- After a 1-3 record in his four most recent bouts, including two straight losses, Frankie Edgar is still planning to move forward with his plan to drop to bantamweight. "It's cool because it's another extension of my career," Edgar told MMA Fighting. "I spent half of my career at lightweight and the other half at 145, so I get a new set of toys to play with and a lot of new, interesting matchups."