Robert Whittaker is oozing with confidence ahead of his fight with Kelvin Gastelum in the UFC Vegas 24 main event on April 17th.
Whittaker was originally scheduled to fight Paulo Costa, but the Brazilian powerhouse had to withdraw due to illness, making way for Gastelum to take the fight on short notice.
Coming off two impressive unanimous decision wins over Darren Till and Jared Cannonier, Whittaker feels confident that he’ll be too hot to handle for Gastelum. Speaking to MMA Junkie, Whittaker predicted that he won’t leave it in the hands of the judges this time around.
“I think I’m going to be too much for him,” Whittaker stated. “My striking is too crisp. I think it’s too fast. I think I’ve got too many weapons. He may try to take me down a couple of times, and I only think it’ll work to his detriment because it’s a five-round fight and wrestling takes it out of you.
“I think I put him away in the second. … All I know is I’m going to go into this fight the best Robert Whittaker I’ve been, and I’m going into this fight very happy – and a happy Rob is a very dangerous one.”
Gastelum Saved The Day
Although he was initially upset that Costa was forced to withdraw, Whittaker’s pleased that Gastelum stepped in and saved the day for him.
“I was pretty dead set on competing at the date that was originally put down,” Whittaker said. “I’d gone through most of the camp. All the work was done. I had organised my whole life around that date. So to be able to still compete on that date – thankfully Gastelum stepped in, and I’m still able to do that. I’m very fortunate.
“I got upset at first. My OCD flared up, and I don’t like last-minute changes. But I started looking at the silver lining. I’m still very happy to fight at that date. All the work was done. I wanted to fight at that date. I wanted to get a fight in, and they’re all killers at the end of the day. It doesn’t really matter who it is that I’m fighting.”
Preparing For Gastelum
When Whittaker was still the UFC middleweight champion, he was scheduled to defend his title against Gastelum at UFC 234, but was forced to withdraw on the day of the fight due to a hernia that required emergency surgery.
Given the fact that he has already spent an entire training camp preparing for Gastelum in the past, the 30 year old feels confident going into UFC Vegas 24.
“Because I had been scheduled to fight him before, I had a lot of the work in the bank for him,” Whittaker explained. “So I’m familiar with his fight style and his different habits. But also, I’ve fought a lot of southpaws. Till was a southpaw, so I was able to adjust relatively quickly.
“Honestly, there’s no fight I look forward to. There’s no fight I particularly want to run or anything like that. I’ll fight whoever I’m supposed to. Whoever they put into the ring with me, I’ll go at. I do feel like I owe him a fight because we were supposed to fight and it fell through, so the fact that we get to cross paths now is better late than never.”
Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum
At UFC 236, Gastelum fought Israel Adesanya for the interim UFC middleweight title, but lost via unanimous decision, after a five-round all-out war. The California native went on to lose his next two fights against Till and Jack Hermansson, before snapping his three-fight losing skid against Ian Heinisch at UFC 258.
Now Gastelum will be feeling more confident having got back to winning ways, Whittaker says he’s expecting an interesting fight.
“Fights like that definitely take it out of you. So the war he had with Izzy – yeah, it takes it out of you,” Whittaker said. “You can’t have too many fights like that. I know first hand because it took it out of me. But he’s back in the winning column now, so his confidence is going to be higher than it has been and he’s going to come at me. He’s got nothing to lose, so I think it’ll be an interesting fight.
“Definitely, the styles make fights. He went into that fight with a game plan of wrestling and controlling the fight that way. I don’t think he’s going to be able to do that against me, so he’ll adjust. I’ll adjust and we’ll have to see what happens on the night.”
Do you think Robert Whittaker will extend his win streak to three when he faces Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24?