Robert Whittaker is on one of the most impressive runs in MMA today, and is coming off consecutive victories over one of the most dangerous fighters in the game, Yoel Romero. But it doesn’t sound like any of that has gone to the middleweight champ’s head.
Whittaker is preparing to defend the 185 title against Kelvin Gastelum this Saturday at UFC 234, which will go down in Melbourne, Australia. As the fight approaches, Whittaker is riding a nine-fight winning streak, which includes victories over top tier middleweights like Derek Brunson, “Jacare” Souza and the aforementioned Romero.
While most observers understand that Gastelum is ridiculously dangerous, and that he could beat Whittaker, the consensus seems to be that the latter will defend his crown. As it stands right now, the Australian resident is the favorite to win the bout on the betting lines, with odds ranging from -225 to -250.
But, despite all this, Whittaker is saying all the right things as UFC 234 nears, in terms of not looking past Gastelum. While Whittaker recently cited the fact he’s gone 10 rounds with a “monster” in Romero, the 28-year-old champ had this to say about Gastelum (quotes via MMA Junkie):
“It’s definitely not a step down,” Whittaker said. “I respect his abilities. He’s a dangerous fighter. He’s going to come in there hungry, with nothing to lose. That’s one of the most dangerous combinations.
“I’m giving him the respect he deserves. It is refreshing to have a different opponent other than Yoel, but, you know, here we are.”
“He’s beaten some big names. He’s young. He’s hungry. He’s tough. He hits like a truck. He’s got good, well-rounded skillsets, so I think we go in there very, very, very even.”
Now sure, maybe Whittaker is just saying this for the cameras and he believes he’s in for an easier night on Saturday, than when he faced the likes of Romero or Souza. But, it would be somewhat surprising if that were the case. Whittaker has historically appeared to be pretty genuine while giving interviews and it doesn’t seem like that’s changed. It should also be noted that when Whittaker was asked about facing the winner of Saturday’s Israel Adesyan – Anderson Silva fight, he relayed he’s solely focused on Gastelum.
One might be tempted to argue, however, that Whittaker could be a little brasher and or provocative while discussing his opponents, as a means to raise his profile etc. But that doesn’t seem to be his style either.
Here is the line-up for UFC 234.
MAIN CARD (PPV/10 p.m. ET)
UFC Middleweight Championship
Robert Whittaker (c) vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Middleweight: Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva
Bantamweight: Rani Yahya vs. Ricky Simon
Lightweight: Devonte Smith vs. Dong Hyun Ma
Light Heavyweight: Sam Alvey vs. Jim Crute
PRELIMINARY CARD (ESPN/8 p.m. ET)
Featherweight: Shane Young vs. Austin Arnett
Female Flyweight: Montana De La Rosa vs. Nadia Kasseum
Flyweight: Kai-Kara France vs. Raulian Paiva
Bantamweight: Teruto Ishihara vs. Kyung Ho Kang
PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass/6:30 p.m. ET)
Lightweight: Lando Vannata vs. Marcos Rosa
Lightweight: Jalin Turner vs. Callan Potter
Bantamweight: Wuliji Buren vs. Jonathan Martinez