Robert Whittaker has no doubt Israel Adesanya was trying to coax him into making a rash decision, and fight for the UFC middleweight title underprepared, by offering a re-match within 60 minutes of his stunning win in Las Vegas a fortnight ago.
Now back quarantining in Sydney, Whittaker has told The Daily Telegraph he expects Adesanya to beat Italian challenger Marvin Vettori when the pair meet at UFC 263 in June.
The Sydneysider also opened up on his reasons for knocking back the opportunity to take top billing himself ahead of Vettori, which was offered up by UFC officials within an hour of his comprehensive decision win over American Kelvin Gastelum.
Undoubtedly, the timing of the offer surprised Team Whittaker.
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Robert Whittaker in action against Kelvin Gastelum. Picture: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLCSource:Getty Images
So what chance Adesanya’s camp may have been pushing for Bobby Knuckles to rush a decision, while the adrenaline was still pumping, and accept a bout he would struggle to prepare for?
Especially given the Australian has had to since fly home, quarantine for two weeks and must still assess a number of injuries, which includes his right hand requiring a cortisone injection in Fight Week.
“Oh, for sure (it was a ploy),” Whittaker agreed.
“I think Adesanya definitely wants to fight in June. But there’s also something there about putting me out a little bit, I’m sure that was part of the thought process.
“But it’s impossible for me to fight on that date.
“So it is what it is.
“Maybe when I was younger (the post-fight offer may have lured him in).
“But not now. Not in my 30s.
Israel Adesanya of Nigeria in action against Paulo Costa of Brazil. Picture: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLCSource:Getty Images
“I’ve got a lot more experience now and a good handle on all that sort of stuff.
“So when my coach came to me only an hour after the fight with their offer, I digested it, worked through the logistics and realised it was impossible.
“I couldn’t do it.
“So if Adesanya now wants to fight Vettori instead, sweet.
“I’ll wait to fight the winner.”
So as for who Whittaker expects to face later this year?
“If I was a betting man, I’d lean towards Adesanya,” he continued.
“He won the first fight between them (in 2018) and, honestly, looks much better now than when they last fought.
“But in saying that, Vettori does have that experience against him.
“So he has an understanding of what Adesanya can do and might come to the table with a different approach.”
Whittaker also revealed he had been forced to receive a cortisone injection prior to the Gastelum win after seriously injuring his right hand.
“Happened on the second day after I landed in Las Vegas,” he said. “I went to the gym to roll around a bit and tore ligaments in my right hand. Just on the side.
“At the time, I went straight away to get X-rays to ensure it wasn’t broken.
“Then, through the UFC, I got a cortisone injection for the pain.
“Then I fought.
“But I’m still not sure what’s wrong.
“I’ll have to get it looked at once I’m out of quarantine.”
While not usually a big consumer of UFC fights, Whittaker will be able to settle in for some quarantine viewing this Sunday when American light heavyweight Dominick Reyes headlines against Czech star Jiri Prochazka in Las Vegas.
Originally published asWhittaker accuses Adesanya of scheming in UFC offer
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