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With Whittaker’s second loss to UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya still fresh in everyone’s minds, many fans mistakenly assumed the tweet meant Whittaker was getting ready to start anew back down at 170 pounds, the division he left in 2014 but competed in for the first three years of his UFC run. But according to Whittaker, who remains MMA Fighting’s No. 2 ranked middleweight in the world, those assumptions were very wrong.
“Mate, it had unexpected attention and unintentional attention, because it just got out of control,” Whittaker said with a laugh on Wednesday’s episode of The MMA Hour. “I consider camp Rob — so Rob that’s in camp, Rob that’s very happily eating his way to sleep every night — as Skinny Rob. You know? That’s why in a lot of my posts previously I’ve said things like, ‘OK, Skinny Rob’s on the shelf now for a while,’ etc, etc. But everyone was just like, ‘He’s going back to 170! Looking at how skinny he is already!’
“People don’t realize how heavy I walk around,” the former UFC middleweight champion added. “So, I’ll walk around 215 [pounds], 220 in life. That’s just my living weight.”
Instead, Wednesday’s tweet had a very different meaning. Whittaker could only hint around the specifics, but it appears he’ll be returning to the cage sooner than initially planned.
“There might be something in the works,” Whittaker said with a grin. “I might have a name picked out, I might have a location picked out, and you know, I’m turning it around sooner than I normally do and just jumping straight back in there.
“It wasn’t part of the plan, but I was offered an opportunity, presented with it, and honestly, I don’t have any injuries from the last fight. There’s a lot of things — just the date suits up, there’s a lot of things that I had planned for after the date. And I wanted to get three fights in this year, so hitting a potential fight in June is a good day for me.”
Whittaker described the matchup as “pretty confirmed” and said that, at this point, he is just waiting on details. But for anyone able to read between the lines, it was fairly apparent that his next test will be a showdown against Marvin Vettori in Singapore sometime in June.
“If we’re just breaking it down, if we’re just spitballing here, in the top five, I think there’s only one guy I haven’t fought yet,” Whittaker said. “Right? So then his name is the only one to pull out of the hat.
“All new challenges interest me. There’s never been a particular fight that I’m like, ‘Man, I want that fight because that fight interests me.’ I’ve never really been like that. It’s just more of, I haven’t fought him before. And because my last fight was Izzy, so it was preparing for a rematch — rematches suck, and preparing for rematches suck, especially when you lost the first one. The amount of work and the thought processes that go through the camp and everything like that, it’s a bit trying. So to break away from a rematch and to fight a new face, some new blood, yeah, it’s interesting.”
It’s no secret that Whittaker finds himself in a difficult position after his UFC 271 setback against Adesanya. His road back to the belt could be a long one after losing twice to the current champion, even if February’s rematch was a close decision. But Whittaker is still only 31 years old — young enough to have plenty of good years ahead of him — and he’s still determined to get his third crack at Adesanya. The close nature of the rematch gave him even more confidence that “The Last Stylebender” is beatable.
So for now, he’s going to see how this next title run goes — and if anything gets derailed, he may revisit the idea of changing divisions, but only if it means moving up to 205 pounds.
“I’ve considered it, because going up is definitely the option, not going down,” Whittaker said. “And I’ve considered it. But the only thing is, I feel like I’m so good at middleweight. I’ve got the cut well down. My strength versus cardio versus speed is just on point.
“I feel like I’d lose some of that if I move up to 205, so it might be — I don’t know, I think I’m going to try and just work my way up to a title shot here one more time and then play with the idea afterwards.”