Australian Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star Robert Whittaker expects middleweight champion Israel Adesanya to retain his title when he takes on challenger Paulo Costa at UFC 253 in September.
Whittaker, who is a former champion and the No.1 contender in the division, feels second-ranked Costa has a decent chance to win but he would eventually put his bets on Adesanya.
"I think Adesanya might win. But Costa can win too. If I was a betting man, I would choose Adesanya. He has the skills to keep the distance, work his opponent with his range and take him out in the end," Whittaker told Sportstar .
After defeating Darren Till at the Fight Island in July, Whittaker will most probably take on Jared Cannonier, No. 3 in the rankings, in an eliminator to determine the next challenger for the middleweight belt, according to UFC president Dana White.
Meanwhile, No. 4 Jack Hermansson, who recently defeated Kelvin Gastelum, also wants to face off against Whittaker. Cannonier had beaten Hermansson in September last year and was scheduled to compete with Whittaker at UFC 248 in March, with the winner getting a title bout.
But Whittaker, 29, had pulled out of the event due to personal reasons and Cannonier had suffered a torn pectoral muscle which ruled him out of action for six months. As of now, the Whittaker-Cannonier encounter is a major possibility for UFC 254 in October, while the latter is also the backup for the Adesanya-Costa clash in the case of a positive COVID-19 test for either of the competitors.
"Get in line, everybody wants to fight me next," quipped Whittaker, responding to whether he'd be fighting either Cannonier or Hermansson later this year.
He also admitted that he was looking forward to a rematch with Adesanya, to whom he had dropped the belt at UFC 243 in October 2019. However, he conceded that he may or may not be next in line.
"I haven't thought about it (title bout) too much though. I think on paper it would look that way. But it is what it is, I just want to keep fighting, irrespective of the opponent.
"Personally, I want a rematch with Adesanya. I want to run that back. I want to see how I take that fight with a clear head. I'm a fighter and I don't like people who have beaten me being out there. So I want to run the matchup again," he said.
Former two-division UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, who had won gold in the middleweight and welterweight divisions, is touted to make a comeback to the Octagon. He is rumoured to face lightweight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov next year.
Whittaker, who began his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) career as a welterweight, weighed up a possible fight with St-Pierre, who is arguably the greatest ever in the division. However, he claimed that he wouldn't move down a division for sure in the future to challenge the 39-year-old Canadian superstar.
"If he's a middleweight, maybe. But I don't think he looks anything like a middleweight. He's fighting lightweight against Khabib perhaps. It's too different. So I'm not looking to fight him. If he comes up to the middleweight division, then yes. Otherwise, not really," he added.
"I'll never go back to welterweight ever again. I'm too big and eat too much food. I may head up to light heavyweight in the future. Let's see. I want to spend more time on the skills of the sport, without focussing much on cutting or gaining weight."
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