Israel Adesanya believes Robert Whittaker has two different attitudes — one towards him when they’re in person and one towards him when they aren’t. According to Whittaker, he’s actually only just got the one: mild confusion.
Speaking on the Ariel Helwani MMA Show this morning, Whittaker was asked about Adesanya’s recent comments that Whittaker had been belittling Adesanya’s abilities when they weren’t together in person (in particular, a moment where Whittaker said he felt the young New Zealander wasn’t as good as he thought he was).
For Whittaker, Adesanya’s issue is.. odd, and to be honest he doesn’t quite get why Adesanya seems so irked.
“I gotta say, I don’t understand why this guy is getting such a rise out of what I said?” Whittaker said. “The only critical thing I’ver ever said about him was that I don’t think this he’s as good as he thinks he is. You can take that how you want, but it makes it sound I’m talking behind his back all the time. You know? That’s just how I feel. Sorry it’s gonna get you so upset. He just needs to relax. He had a great win over the weekend, and it seems like every time someone asks him a question or puts the spotlight on him for two seconds, he can’t help but mention my name. It’s a little concerning to be honest.
“Because I’m the only thing in his head. Surely he can be using his spotlight for other purposes? For instance, He’s calling me a fake New Zealander, a Australian? Wow. They’re pretty heavy comments. He could be using his spotlight to further other purposes. Like myself, when my spotlight is put on me, I get to plug my educational programs. I’m bringing educational programs to New Zealander next year, a lot of people don’t know that, but that’s what I’m working on with my time. I guess the only thing Israel can talk about is me. I’m flattered to be honest.”
As you might be able to tell, it’s not like Adesanya’s are irritating Whittaker. In actuality, he said, they’re mostly amusing him.
“Some things I think are ridiculous. Like when he says I’m a fake Maussie, a fake Aussie, a fake New Zealander. Like, that’s just ridiculous,” Whittaker said. “And I don’t think anyone really pays any mind to it. Because if I’m a fake New Zealander then what is he? It’s just one of those things. And as for every time I see him, I’m very personable — I have no beef with him at all. If he wants me to be critical every time I see him, and to sit him down and have coffee and we can go over every fault in his game, I’ll do that if he wants to. Otherwise, I’ll just say hey, how you doing and keep my mouth shut.
“Any differences we have, whatever reason he’s made them personal, we’ll sort out in the Octagon sooner or later.”
But while Whittaker doesn’t quite understand why Adesanya has taken any remarks he’s made so badly, he does have at least on theory as to the interim champion’s frustrations.
“Personally I think he can’t stand the fact that people like me more than him,” Whittaker said. “And even if they don’t, he can’t stand the fact that people are talking about me in the same sentence as him. He just can’t do it. He wants all of the spotlight, he wants all of the attention. And he can have it, I’ve never cared. I find it funny it gets to him so much. Just relax man. Great fight. You got yourself a shiny belt. We can fight for my one later.
“Honestly he can say what he wants, because we’re gonna meet in a few months time, and any talk is done. Anything he says, old, new, this, that none of it’s going to matter. I’m gonna see you across from the Octagon and I’m gonna go hell for leather, and if he beats me, he beats me. Good on him, he would have earned his place, but I’m gonna do everything in my power to not let that happen.”