Robert Whittaker, who takes on Jacare, at UFC on FOX 24, spoke to Bloody Elbow about the upcoming clash between Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre.
Robert Whittaker (17-4) is riding a six-fight win streak into this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 24: Johnson vs. Reis. In Kansas City he’ll meet Ronaldo Souza in a middleweight bout that promises ramifications for the UFC’s 185lb title landscape. A win for Jacare confirms his place firmly behind Yoel Romero as a top contender. A win for Whittaker solidifies his claim that he belongs among the elite of the division.
But for Whittaker and Souza – as well as Romero, Mousasi, and others – a potential UFC middleweight title shot will have to wait. The road to champion Michael Bisping is firmly blocked by a returning legend and a so-called ‘money-fight’ that is yet to be scheduled.
In March the UFC announced that welterweight icon Georges St-Pierre was coming back to the UFC after a four year hiatus. For his comeback fight the French-Canadian has been granted reigning UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping. This is despite the fact that St-Pierre has never competed at 185lbs and that it is generally agreed that there are a number of viable contenders already within the middleweight division.
The Bisping vs. St-Pierre match-up may have come to a shock to some, but not to Whittaker. “I wish I could say that I was more surprised, but I’m not,” Whittaker told Bloody Elbow. “Bisping’s doing his own thing and the UFC are letting him. So, that’s cool. You be you. I’m in no rush. I feel for these other guys who are at the end of their careers and they want to get that shot before they finish up, but I’ve got youth on my side, I’m training hard and I’m doing the right things. So I’m just going to focus on getting better as a fighter and the belt will fall into my lap.”
Whittaker revealed he has a strong desire to fight Bisping, but this was true before the Englishman defeated Luke Rockhold for the strap in June, 2016. The month Bisping lifted UFC gold, Andrew Kanatli – Whittaker’s manager – told Bloody Elbow he feels that the new champion had been ‘strategic’ in pulling out of a scheduled fight with Whittaker at UFC 193. “Bisping searched high and low for an injury excuse,” said Kanatli, who then alleged that Bisping opted to have bone fragments removed from his elbow to stay a potential date with Whittaker.
A month before Bisping became champion, a source told Bloody Elbow that Bisping vs. Whittaker was being targeted for a UFC Fight Night 101 in Melbourne, Australia. The source at that time stated that the UFC were, “trying to make the fight happen,” but it was thought that Bisping would not accept the bout, “unless forced.” Bisping refuted these claims during an appearance on Three Amigos Podcast. Whittaker would end up defeating Derek Brunson in the headlining fight of UFC FN 101.
Despite his history with Bisping, Whittaker doesn’t begrudge the former TUF winner for taking the fight with St-Pierre. “Who would turn down a huge money fight?” questioned Whittaker. “Would I do it? It’s very hard to answer that without being in the person’s shoes. I don’t think anybody who isn’t in that position can answer truthfully.”
“I think everyone wants to see GSP return,” continued Whittaker. “Do I want to see him return in my division? Not necessarily, but it is what it is. I’m excited for that fight regardless.”
Though he’s looking forward to seeing Bisping vs. St-Pierre, Whittaker admitted he is having a hard time predicting who might win. “I’m on the fence, I really am. I think Georges is a legend, but it’s not his division. It’s the middleweight division and Bisping’s a tough dude. He’s a veteran of the sport as well. And he’s got a really tight set of skills. So I really am on the fence for that one.”
Whittaker wouldn’t be drawn on when he thinks he might get the chance to compete for the middleweight title. He insisted that he prefers to take ‘one fight at a time’, adding that it wouldn’t be wise to look past Jacare. “I’m really enjoying the journey that I’m on,” said Whittaker of his place in the division. “I’m loving these hard fights. I’m loving that I can increase my skill set week in and week out and get better as a fighter.”
Whittaker’s next ‘hard fight’ can be seen live on FOX this Saturday on the main card of UFC on FOX 24: Johnson vs. Reis.