Robert Whittaker: ‘I thought I did enough’ to win at UFC 271; Israel Adesanya responds
Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker put on a manly face after his second loss to Israel Adesanya, vowing to continue his mission to regain the title after failing a unanimous decision at the UFC 271 headliner.
At the same time, Whittaker believed that after five rounds with Adesanya, he should have been declared the winner.
“I thought I had done enough,” he told reporters at a press conference after the event at the Toyota Center in Houston, which hosted the ESPN+ pay-per-view event. “I thought I had done enough. Having figured it out, it seems I lost the first round, I got back together. I think I beat him with every punch. I have takedowns.
“I thought I had done enough, but this is what it is. This is how the office works. So I want to come back, develop further and become better. Perfect what I’ve been working on and come back better.”
It was clear that, at least on the improvement front, Whittaker had hit the ground running after the knockout loss to Adesanya in their first meeting in 2019. Three wins in a row gave Whittaker a shot at reclaiming UFC gold, and after a tough first round to which he was dropped, he made adjustments that made the fight more competitive. Two of the three judges scored the fight 48-47, or three rounds to two, in favor of Adesanya.
“Honestly, Izzy was the biggest hurdle for me at the time,” Whittaker said. “The first time he beat me well, so I worked and trained to get better and I did it. You can see in this fight I just had with him how [farther] I got to the point where I think I beat him. So I’m looking forward to the future. The ceiling is nowhere to be seen. I don’t think there’s a ceiling for me.”
Whittaker said nothing but the shot that landed him in the first round was enough to hurt him. He touted his ability to get in the reach of a high middleweight and throw punches. Although he received a lot of leg damage from kicks, he felt that his performance was more complete.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this to come up in the highlights reel and scream, ‘Rob thinks he won,'” Whittaker said, predicting the headlines of his appearance at the press conference. “I don’t take anything from him. Literally, he won. He got the belt, that’s how it works. The judges gave it to him. It’s a game, it’s a business.
“I have nothing but respect for his skills. I’m proud of myself for getting back on my horse after that first loss, bracing myself the way I did, and getting it across to him again. I don’t think there are many people who could do that.”
From here, Whittaker said he would reunite with his family and return to work. Although he again lost to the champion, he predicted that no one else would win the title in his stead and another opportunity would present itself.
“The third fight is inevitable because I will again trample anyone who gets in front of me, and he knows it too,” Whittaker said. “My mission remains the same: defeat the next guy in front of me.”
Whittaker said that in the octagon after the fight, Adesanya told him that he would see him again. It was one moral victory after a heartbreaking outcome. Perhaps this was also not entirely accurate.
“I said, ‘Maybe,'” Adesanya said of Whittaker’s announcement that a third fight was imminent. “I said, ‘You’re going to get some good victories and I’m sure we’ll see you in the future.’ I say this just to give them a pat on the ass: “Ah, well done, man.” But let’s see. I mean, the division is full of killers, but I’m looking forward to some fresh meat.