Just one week after White said Whittaker (22-5 MMA, 13-3 UFC) vs. Adesanya (20-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) was a “very appealing” fight, he changed course and announced the reigning middleweight champ would instead be moving up to light heavyweight for a superfight against titleholder Jan Blachowicz.
According to White, he looked into the champion-vs.-champion fight because of Whittaker’s lack of interest in a rematch with Adesanya.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to have to sit down with this kid (Adesanya) and convince him on why he needs to fight Whittaker,’” White told reporters after UFC on ESPN+ 39 this past weekend. “Whittaker comes out and says he doesn’t want to fight him – craziest (expletive) I’ve ever seen. … I thought Whittaker deserved the shot and Whittaker doesn’t want it, so yeah, we’ll let (Adesanya move up).”
Since Whittaker suffered a second-round TKO loss to Adesanya at UFC 243 in October 2019, he’s rattled off wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier. After beating the latter at UFC 254 on Oct. 24, Whittaker said the rematch was a priority, but he wasn’t going to go out of character and trash talk or be boisterous in order to get it.
Whittaker said White seemingly took his comments the wrong way and made it clear he very much wants to share the octagon with Adesanya again – be it at 185 or 205 pounds.
“I certainly think he took a little twist to what I said,” Whittaker told MMA Junkie on Monday. “I never said I don’t want to fight Izzy. That’s not something I said. I did not say that. I’m looking to fight March, April next year. I would like to fight Izzy. If Izzy’s moving up to fight Jan, then I’ll move up and fight him there if he gets the win. I want that fight. I do want that fight. We just had to work it into that timeline.
“I have no control on what the UFC’s going to do or what Izzy’s going to do, but whether he’s here at middleweight or up at light heavyweight, I’ll take the fight him.”
Whittaker, who doesn’t want to fight before March because of the expected arrival of his next child in January, said he was never directly contacted by the UFC about fighting Adesanya again.
He said he wasn’t necessarily shocked by the UFC putting Adesanya vs. Blachowicz together, but his exclusion in the process of getting there is what has thrown Whittaker for a loop.
“They never reached out to me – not once,” Whittaker said. “It wasn’t so much of a twist of Izzy fighting Jan. I can see why they would want to do that, why Izzy would want to do that, why the UFC would want it. I can see that happening. It’s more the twist or how he took my words. Either he misinterpreted it or twisted it a little bit. That one took me for a little bit of a ride. But like I said, my timeline stands. That is the fight that I’ve earned.”
Whittaker clarified he’s not explicitly upset with the UFC or White. He doesn’t think the timeline of how things played out was fair to his position, but Whittaker said he knows what’s done is done.
“With the twist on words a little bit, it was confusing,” Whittaker said. “It was a little annoying, but it is what it is. Can’t change anything now. … It’s not something I can be upset about, because it is what it is. I’m more confused. That would be the biggest emotion I have right now – like, confused. I wish the open dialogue was there, I wish the communication was there because I’m pretty easy to work with. What’s been done has been done. My timeline stands, I’m going to look at fighting Izzy whether it’s at light heavyweight or middleweight, early next year. We’ll have to see how the dice roll.”
Whittaker was adamant that there are no other fights of interest to him besides Adesanya at this time. He brushed off Paulo Costa’s repeated callouts and said fighting backward in the rankings again isn’t attractive after doing it twice against Till and Cannonier.
Rematching Adesanya is the only option in Whittaker’s mind, and he said he’s willing to let the bout with Blachowicz play out before he gets back in the octagon.
“It depends on what the division is doing or how the UFC is going to approach the division with Izzy moving up,” Whittaker said. “It is hard to say (what’s going to happen). It’s very unclear at the moment the direction the UFC is going to push the division and Izzy. Obviously, Izzy is going to fight Jan, then I guess I’m just going to wait to pounce on either the winner or the loser of that fight because that’s the fight that I’ve earned with my work.”
If Adesanya becomes a double champ, Whittaker said the idea of going up to 205 pounds won’t be a joke. He wants the chance to get his only loss in the past six years back and is convinced it would be a different story than the first meeting.
“I’d certainly have to go into that fight with a different strategy and different gameplan,” Whittaker said. “I cannot go into the same fight with the same attitude and think I will get a different result. I’ve got a good team around me. When I go into that fight with the knowledge of the last fight and how it built up to now, as well as seeing his last few fights, he’s going to be a hard fight. He’s going to be a tough fight. He’s going to come in there very confident – very, very confident. He’s a dangerous fight. But I might have one or two tricks up my sleeve still.”