Seventh ranked middleweight and rising star Robert Whittaker is set to return on November 27th at UFC Melbourne when he takes on the recently victorious Derek Brunson. Whittaker last fought in April at UFC 197 when he defeated the gritty Rafael Natal via decision. Brunson is coming off a first round KO over Uriah Hall, an opponent Whittaker has also recently beaten.
This middleweight match up pits two of the rising contenders in the division and Whittaker wasn’t entirely surprised to find out Brunson was next. While he hasn’t fought since April, the MMA world pondered many possible match ups for the Aussie including a rumour versus the greatest to ever compete, Anderson Silva.
The rumour stemmed from the fact that basically every middleweight in the top 10 was matched up and when interviewed by Submission Radio, Whittaker said he knew the possibility was low.
“The middleweight division right now is completely tied up, it’s chaotic everyone’s fighting everyone but then I did some math and there’s no way they’re gonna afford to put Anderson Silva on a fight night. I’ve been asking to fight everyone since last fight. Like I said it’s just that the division is tied up and everyone is busy. I wasn’t approached by anyone.”
That left one other possibility and everyone diverted their attention to the Derek Brunson/Uriah Hall match up that took place two weeks ago in Hidalgo. While Whittaker has already beaten Hall, fighting a guy in Brunson who will have beaten a common opponent made sense.
“As soon as I saw Derek Brunson beat Uriah Hall the way he did, I knew it was going to be Derek,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “He’s got another 10 weeks until he has to fight me. He comes off a win with almost no injuries plus I’m ranked ahead of him and it’s another way for him to get a foot higher up in the rankings and who doesn’t want to come to Australia?”
Many felt that Brunson’s first round KO over Hall was an early stoppage but Whittaker knows how dangerous Brunson is and is really looking forward to the fight.
“There wasn’t much to it, he just loaded up on that left hand and Uriah ate it. He looks good, he looked dangerous so he’s got a lot of power, he looks athletic and I really look forward to scrapping with him”
Whittaker who not long ago was scheduled to fight current champion Michael Bisping at UFC 193, was rumoured to fight Anderson Silva but has now landed the 8th ranked Derek Brunson. Many would have liked to see the Aussie star take on a top 5 opponent or a big name but considering that everyone was booked, he’s not too bothered with the opponent.
“I’m not too worried really, it is what it is,” Whittaker told Submission Radio on not fighting a big name. “I’m in the game to gain experience to better myself as a fighter. The only way to do that is by fighting and taking hard fights. Whether it’s big names or not, I want to be the best fighter in the world and I’m not going to be the best fighter in the world by saying no to certain fights.”
While Brunson is ranked right under at 8th, Whittaker knows a win would still push him a step forward to title contention. Bringing similar styles to the table in their power and athleticism, he feels he has the advantage almost everywhere.
“I see myself completely at an advantage,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “He’s good at wrestling and has a powerful left hand. The way he loads on it if anyone loaded up on it like that with that amount of strength and power, they’re going to put people away.”
“I’m just as aggressive as him and I hit just as hard and I really look forward to meeting up with him and seeing how he likes to get hit. I’m going to hit him and he’s gonna go down. I think he’s going around spouting first round finish and I think it will be it’s just not the way he wants it to be.”
With Rockhold versus Jacare set to headline the Melbourne card and plenty other middleweight match ups booked, Whittaker will definitely have his eyes on all of them. Considering that he was once scheduled to fight Bisping, seeing the title fight versus Henderson is definitely a little strange to him but he isn’t too bothered about it.
“I like it in a sense that I’m a fan of Hendo but I don’t like it in the sense that the UFC just pick whoever they want to fight whoever they want but it’s not up to me I’m just here to fight and I try not to get involved in any of this stuff.”
In a fight that promises to deliver fireworks, Whittaker will look to put Brunson away in front of his home crowd and climb one step closer to the top of the middleweight mountain. Check out Whittaker’s full interview with Submission Radio below.