UFC: Robert Whittaker Finally Breaks Silence On Absence
Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has opened up about his recent absence from the Octagon. The hard hitting Australian last fought at UFC 243 in October but lost the coveted belt to Israel Adesanya.
It was Christmas Day and like every Sunday for the past five years, Whittaker was tackling Sydney’s famous Wanda sand dunes. Until that day, the Australian fighter had never succumbed to the gruelling challenge, but something was different this time.
“I just stopped,” he says. “Then stood there, asking ‘what the f*** am I doing?’ It was Christmas Day. My family was somewhere else. That moment, it’s when everything crashed.”
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Whittaker revealed all.
“I sacrificed everything. My team suggested several plans which I took to and because it worked, I just kept at it. But you can’t keep doing that forever. You just can’t.”
Whittaker was struggling with an on-going hand injury but admits it was the mental pressures of being an elite athlete that forced him to withdraw from his UFC 248 bout with Jared Cannonier.
“I just wasn’t home. That second Romero fight, it took heaps out of me,” Whittaker concedes. “And not just the fight itself, but the bulls*** that surrounded it with my hand and so on. But you keep going”
Overworked and dealing with a false claims that his disappearance was due to him donating bone marrow for his sick daughter, Whittaker admits that he was ‘burnt out’.
“Even with the illnesses I had too, I was out of the Octagon but working twice as hard because I felt like I’d let a lot of people down. So while I wasn’t fighting, I never rested.”
Asked why he didn’t express his concerns with his coaching team and family, Robert stated that there’s no time to have doubts when you’re going from one fight to the next.
“Because you can’t have doubts. You can’t say ‘Hey, maybe I’m burnt out’. As soon as one fight is over, you have another title fight on the way. So the negative thoughts, you block them out. You bite down on your mouthguard and work through. And physically, we were training at an intellectual level, with loads and spreadsheets, lighter sessions that involved stretching.
“But again, mentally I was burnt out. And you can only do that so long before you wind up in a fight below your mental best. I just wasn’t myself. That’s the game though, you rock up and fight. But I know I can perform much better, and have performed much better.”
During the break, the rumours surrounding his daughter escalated but Whittaker was initially unaware of them.
“During the break, I got off all social media to spend time with family. So it was my old man who actually contacted me, explaining there was this crazy rumour going around. And from there, it just got a life of its own.
“But my kids were all fine. They are fine. It was me who had the issue.”
Dana White expressed concerns about Whittaker’s future during his absence. However, ‘Bobby Knuckles’ says that the promotion was fully informed on his situation.
“I didn’t speak with Dana directly but the UFC knew why I had withdrawn,” he insists. “I love fighting, and it is something I’m good at. But you can’t keep fighting like I was trying to.
“And not having those sessions, it means I can do things Saturday night too,” he says. “Same as I’m now playing with the kids late into Sunday afternoon rather than being completely spent. The changes I’ve made, it really will change my life. Not training to exhaustion every day, I guess you can say I’m living.”