Robert Whittaker may be the betting favorite ahead of his number-one contender clash with Dricus du Plessis at UFC 290, but the former UFC champion said he is fully prepared for the pressure that his opponent is likely to bring on fight night in Las Vegas.
Whittaker was at pains to stress the peril involved with facing du Plessis, a surging contender with heavy hands, relentless forward pressure, and an unbreakable fighting spirit. It’s a test that the Australian said will be one of the toughest of his career.
“Definitely, he’s the most dangerous fight to date, and that’s because he’s the one that unwritten,” he explained.
“Everything in hindsight, it’s easy, right? But yeah, he’s the unknown. And I understand the dangers that he presents, because not only is he well-rounded, and an athlete – physically, he’s a big guy, he’s not a small fella – he has nothing to lose, everyone’s washed him.
“He’s the underdog in this fight, and tell me something more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose, and everything to gain? And to show respect for that level of danger that he’s brought, I have trained like a madman for the last 14 weeks. May the best man win, you know? He’s gonna get the best version of myself come the weekend.”
As a former middleweight champion, Whittaker’s resume stacks up favorably against the rest of the contenders at 185 pounds. But his status as one of the UFC’s middleweight elite won’t allow him to look down on anyone who is due to face him inside the Octagon, even if others do.
“I don’t understand anybody who underestimates their opponents,” he said.
“We’re in the fight game. We’re in the best company in the world, with the best fighters in the world. I don’t understand why you think every single one of those guys in the division isn’t going to knock your block off if you aren’t ready. It just seems a little silly.
“He’s the guy that, if you underestimate him, he’s gonna run over you. Especially with his greatest trait, which is his resilience, because he’s been so close to defeat several times, yet somehow scrapes victory. That’s a scary trait to have.”
Whittaker elaborated on that point later in the media day session, as he praised du Plessis’s biggest weapon heading into fight night in Las Vegas.
“His resilience, and his ability to not quit,” he said.
“He’s an athlete, He’s talented. He’s got a very well-rounded skillset. And the fact that he doesn’t quit is dangerous. It’s dangerous. There’ll beat a lot of guys that do.
“You’ve seen that time and time again in his fights. He’s been so close to losing, and then scrapes victory, because he doesn’t quit, and then his opponents do.
“It’s not about breaking him. It’s about being better than him. I’m going to try and dismantle him. I’m going to try and create holes and opportunities that I can exploit to take the win.”