UFC Abu Dhabi: Whittaker promises fireworks on return to octagon

Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. - AFP file
Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. - AFP file

Abu Dhabi - The former UFC middleweight champion squares off against Darren Till in the main card on Sunday

By Ashwani Kumar

Published: Wed 22 Jul 2020, 9:27 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 Jul 2020, 11:44 PM

Robert Whittaker, the former UFC middleweight champion and No.1 ranked contender, returns to the steel cage with fire in his belly and hunger to reclaim his lost title.
No, it's not a rematch against current champion Israel Adesanya.
But it's No.5 Darren Till that Whittaker will be up against on Sunday.
And the winner will be in the reckoning for a shot at the title.

The stakes can't be any higher than this and hence the Whittaker-Till bout makes the main card for the last event of the UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Whittaker hasn't fought since the loss to Adesanya 10 months ago. But he is in the right frame of mind ahead of the big clash.
"I am a top contender. I am one of the best in the world. I am only 29. So I have enough time to walk away from the game, train skill sets and come back. My hunger to fight before was the exact same as it is now. I'm alive again. The fire for the sport has been lit. I want to fight and win," said the 'Reaper' with a 21-5 win-loss record.
The Covid-19-enforced break has rejuvenated Whittaker as he was able to have plenty of family time.
"I took my kids to daycare, picked them up, sometimes, and made them peanut butter sandwiches. I did all the little things that I couldn't do normally. I love the way I have prepared for this fight," he said.
Whittaker isn't looking beyond the Sunday fight.
"He is dangerous, has got skill sets coming into this, but I just have a more complete skill set. I am just slightly better in all angles. I am only going to shoot takedowns in this fight. I am looking forward to taking him to the ground and keeping him there. My secret game plan is to hit him and not get hit," he said.
Meanwhile, Till is riding high after the UFC 244 triumph over Kelvin Gastelum - a split-decision victory after two losses. The 'Gorilla' maintains a fantastic 18-2 record.
"It (the win) brought back humble confidence. I am building on it. It was weird because throughout my life I just felt invincible. Wherever I went in the world, I did win, and then just knock, knock (two losses). It did knock me a lot. I have learnt a lot. I have matured not just as a fighter but as a person," he said.
Till is not discounting Whittaker, but has kept his eyes fixed on Adesanya.
"If I beat Whittaker, I don't want to hear any name come out of anybody's mouth other than Israel Adesanya," he said.
There are seven main cards (starting 4am) and eight preliminary fights (from 1 am) at the Flash Forum on Sunday.

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