After his September TKO win over Paulo Costa, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya had a message for his next potential opponent, “I already DMd Jared Cannonier, he’s a hell of a dude, I love his energy, he’s a beautiful, beautiful man and I said, ‘you destroy Robert Whittaker and you’re next.’ He’s the one I want to fight next. He deserves it. If he beats Robert Whittaker handily and he dominates him, he’s next.”
Whittaker and Cannonier faced off on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 254. The former middleweight champion, who lost the crown to Adesanya in 2019, won that bout by decision.
Whittaker’s victory dropped Cannonier from title consideration, but it put the former champ back in the mix.
“It’s very appealing to me,” UFC president Dana White said after UFC 254. “It’s the fight that makes sense right now. Adesanya has a lot of options, but the fight that makes the most sense is Whittaker. I thought Cannonier was gonna be a much tougher challenge for him.
“He looked good tonight. So the Adesanya fight makes sense.”
Whittaker, who took some time off to regroup after his loss to Adesanya — his only defeat since he moved from welterweight to middleweight in 2014 — had a more relaxed attitude toward the possible rematch because he and his wife, Sofia, are expecting another child.
“I’ve got Christmas and the newborn in January,” Whittaker said at the UFC 254 post-fight press conference. “I don’t want to be thinking about a fight in the lead-up to my newborn. With all my kids, I’ve been thinking about my fights. I’ve had my mind elsewhere. I felt like I wasn’t in the moment. I refuse to do that for this one.”
“He’s a tough fight, man,” Whittaker continued. “I’m stoked to fight him. He’s a hard fight. He’s so good and he only looked better in his last fight – and the fact he beat me once already. But I feel like I’ve got a couple of tricks I can roll out. I feel like I can play it differently this time. Honestly, I know he’s trying to do everything else, and good on him to do that. I’m not thinking about him. Maybe me and him shouldn’t think about it just for a little bit. He can go up to light heavy(weight) or heavyweight. Whatever he wants to do, it doesn’t bother me. My plans are Christmas, my baby, and then, hopefully, our timelines line up then.”
Adesanya is 20-0 and has two defenses of the UFC middleweight crown to his name.
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