‘The next fight is the best one’ – Whittaker believes TKO loss to Pereira could be freeing for Adesanya

To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, MMA is 90% mental—the other half is physical. Fighters can train like crazy, practice technique for days, weeks,…

By: Zane Simon | 2 months ago
‘The next fight is the best one’ – Whittaker believes TKO loss to Pereira could be freeing for Adesanya
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, MMA is 90% mental—the other half is physical.

Fighters can train like crazy, practice technique for days, weeks, months—even years—on end. They enter the cage in peak physical condition, with miles of cardio under their belts, and countless hours spent sparring in the gym. But if their mind isn’t in the right place for a brutal fist fight, then all the prep in the world may not be enough to save them.

Trying to figure out just what makes the perfect competitive mindset, then, is a job entirely unto itself. Athletes who find themselves on the schneid turn to sports psychologists, self help mantras, and even good old fashioned snake oil to get themselves pumped up for their next performance.

It’s under the weight of those kinds of pressures, then, that former UFC champion Robert Whittaker suggests that Israel Adesanya’s recent TKO loss to former kickboxing foe Alex Pereira might actually not be such a bad thing. ‘Po Atan’ and the ‘Last Stylebender’ have faced off three times already, twice inside the ring, with Adesanya failing to see the final bell in two of those contests.

Speaking to Michael Bisping on the Believe You Me podcast, the ‘Reaper’ pointed out that this latest defeat—in which Adesanya also lost the middleweight belt—might actually free the City Kickboxing talent from the burden of expectation mentally. After all, having lost twice to the Nigerian-born New Zealander himself, Whittaker is in a place to know what he’s talking about.

“If we look at the fight just from a mental perspective, I believe Adesanya had a better chance last fight,” Whittaker explained (transcript via MMA Fighting). “But in saying that, maybe now that the worst has happened again, it frees him up for the next one. You see where it can swing both ways really easily. It can either swing one way where it frees him up: the worst has happened, whatever, he gets in there mentally free. Or, he’s worried about it happening again with the small gloves because it has happened.

“Honestly, skill-wise, he could have beat him skill-wise last time.”

Whittaker certainly isn’t wrong on that last point. In both his final kickboxing match and their UFC 281 battle, Adesanya hurt Pereira badly enough that another ref could have considered stopping the bout. The first time around, Pereira beat the count, in the more recent bout, he was saved by the bell. Overall, after being thoroughly impressed by the skills both men put on display last time around, it seems Whittaker is just excited to hopefully get a chance to face either man somewhere down the line.

“I’m chomping at the bit to get at both of them,” Whittaker added. “I truly do feel that I can take myself to a new level. I feel that I can get in there and put on a better performance. I kind of understand where Adesanya was mentally, I guess, going into the rematch after losing twice to the same guy. It was a very similar predicament with me and Adesanya, and I do believe that him getting through the fights the way he did and the way everything has gone, the next fight is the best one. But then, it is what it is. I do want that fight. I do believe that I use mixed martial arts better than both of those guys. I do believe I can utilize my wrestling and grappling to make it a hellish match for both of them.”

Adesanya and Pereira are set to face off for the fourth time at UFC 287 on April 8th in Miami, FL. Alongside the middleweight title fight main event, the card is also expected to play host to a welterweight top contender’s bout between Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal.

About the author: Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. Host of the MMA Vivisection and 6th Round, he has covered MMA and the UFC since 2013. (full bio)

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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