Robert Whittaker says ego cost him loss to Israel Adesanya

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The return to the title hasn’t been easy for former UFC Champion Robert Whittaker.

After losing the middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in October 2019, Whittaker came back strong with three straight wins over the division’s top contenders: Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and, most recently, Kelvin Gastelum.

His victory in the main event Fight of the Night against Gastelum in April 2021 was a shutout on the judges’ scoreboards. After Adesanya defended his title against Marvin Vettori two months later, it became clear that Whittaker was next in line.

During UFC 271 on February 12 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Whittaker (23-5 MMA, 14-3 UFC) challenges Adesanya (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) in the main event. After Adesanya knocked him out at UFC 243 to win the belt, Whittaker said he needed to make some changes, and it began by admitting that his own ego may have stood in the way.

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Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker 2 official for UFC 271 on February 12

““ Other opponents tried (to get into my head like Adesanya did), ”Whittaker told MMA Junkie.“ I think it was a whole series of different things that happened to me. mind, and there was a lot on my side – it was the way I handled them and the way I took them that made it worse.

“I think (Adesanya) even mentioned it – that my ego was something that affected me. As much as I don’t want to recognize my opponent for his insight, my ego was probably a big thing, was a big part of why my headspace wasn’t where it should have been for this fight – why I was leaving The debate between Australia and New Zealand got to me, why I was letting all these little things get to me. It was showing. The results of that showed in the way I behaved, in the way I organized the fight and in the way I was fighting at the time. I recognized it all and you can obviously see that I came to terms with it all and I’m a different fighter now than I was then.

Of particular significance to Whittaker’s performance against Gastelum was his return to a title shot. While his victories over Till and Cannonier were close fights – 48-47 on all three scorecards in his headliner against Till and 29-28 on all three against Cannonier – the victory over Gastelum was never quite so. questioning.

Whittaker edged Gastelum 169-70 and had four eliminations in combat. If he started correcting his mistakes from Adesanya’s first fight against Till and made a few more adjustments against Cannonier, it appeared he had everything set up against Gastelum.

“The only time I feel as an athlete you can correct yourself, you can do better, you can improve yourself is when you admit your mistakes,” said Whittaker. “That’s what I’ve been doing since that first loss (against Adesanya). And with every fight since that loss, I’ve pulled things together, recognizing what I could do better, what I had done wrong, what I could change, and it all got me here, I’m very excited to step in and put my skills to the test again.

There were some mistakes Whittaker says he made against Adesanya the first time around. And while these mistakes seem to be physical in nature to most observers, Whittaker believes a lot of it has to do with how he approached the fight mentally and emotionally.

Will the revenge be different? Whittaker believes it will.

“Getting punched in the face – definitely this one (that was my biggest mistake),” said Whittaker. “(But) probably my recklessness – I charged recklessly. I fell into every one of his baits, every one of his traps, and I stubbornly tried to come forward, press the attack, (and) rip his head off. disabled. That’s what was going through my head and it didn’t work. It didn’t work. This isn’t how I usually fight. You don’t see me fighting like this in a lot of my other fights, forever.

“I approached him. I’ve given it some thought and we’ll try to get in there and do something different next time.

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