The UFC’s decision to book a middleweight title battle between reigning champ Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori on June 12 shocked numerous this previous week, as it was generally expected the next title shot would go to previous champion Robert Whittaker.
However, speaking to ESPN on Sunday, Whittaker (23-5) uncovered the UFC offered him the battle – very quickly after he defeated Kelvin Gastelum through decision at UFC Fight Night on April 17 in Las Vegas.
“More or less, I was offered the fight about an hour after my fight with Gastelum,” Whittaker said. “There was just no way, physically, I could do that. Not only do I have injuries from that last fight to deal with, I have to fly home to Australia, and then two weeks in [mandatory] isolation. I have to see how my body was feeling, and then I’d have to prepare; all by June. It was impossible.”
UFC president Dana White revealed to ESPN a week ago that Whittaker, who gave up his title to Adesanya in 2019 in a TKO misfortune, will confront the victor of the championship session on June 12. Whittaker said he is content with that plan.
“I can see what Izzy is trying to do,” Whittaker said. “He’s trying to get me to accept the fight injured, on short notice, with all odds against me, but there was just no way I could get there physically. I do want that fight, and my next fight will be for the title. It has to be. He was just really adamant about fighting on that date and I can’t do it. I’m happy to fight the winner after.”
For the time being, the 30-year-old is satisfying a required 14-day isolate in his local Australia. He said he is managing a sensitive hand and shin from the Gastelum battle, and will additionally survey his wounds once he’s out of confinement. The circumstance of his possible title battle will clearly rely upon the strength of Adesanya or Vettori after June 12, however Whittaker expects battling for the belt before the finish of 2021.
Concerning who he thinks will win the June title battle, Whittaker said he could see it going in any case.
“It’s hard to say, isn’t it?” Whittaker said. “Their first fight in 2018 was pretty close. I think Izzy is really good. I could see Izzy taking that fight. But Vettori is tough as nails and he seems to take high-level opponents to a place where they are uncomfortable because of his resilience and toughness. Plus, he has a good skill set. I think Vettori will know what to expect from Adesanya this time, because he knows the level of striking he brings. In saying that, however, I do think Adesanya has gotten better since the last time they fought. So, I guess I’m on the fence.
“I don’t care who wins. Whatever. I hope they beat the hell out of each other to be honest.”