Ahead of his main card showdown Saturday with Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker declared that he is ready to derail the Cannonier hype train.
Despite a short, three-month turnaround from his decision victory over Darren Till in July, the Australian is supremely confident ahead of his fight with No. 2-ranked contender Cannonier.
"I haven't looked at what Jared's done. I don't care what he does. I don't care if he's had 400 knockout wins, it doesn't bother me. I haven't even looked it up," Whittaker told media via video link from Yas Island, which the UFC has dubbed Fight Island. "I think he's not ready for me because I know what I can bring to the table, I know the type of fighter I am. I don't think he's at my level. I don't think anyone's at my level. I know what I'm going to bring at the weekend."
Despite the comeback win over Till, Whittaker has been flying under the radar, with Cannonier repeatedly linked with a title shot against Israel Adesanya. But Whittaker, who lost to the champion Adesanya in October 2019, wouldn't have it any other way.
"I've always been the dark horse," he said. "I've always been the sleeper, everyone sleeps on me. I had that period when people weren't sleeping on me, but as soon as I lost they started sleeping on me again.
"I don't mind, though. I like upsetting people, derailing the hype trains, upsetting the odds. I like that stuff, it's fun. It's like the cherry on top after a fight."
The shadow of Adesanya looms large over the division following his dismantling of Paulo Costa. And while avenging that defeat in Melbourne, Australia, lingers in Whittaker's mind, he's happy to walk his own path.
"The only thing I'm worried about is fighting Jared. What comes after that, I have no control over. I don't care what the division does. I'm working off my own schedule. My sole focus is getting to the event, training for the event, having that fight and going home. That's all that matters. Everyone else can do what they want they talk about what they want, it doesn't bother me.
"I've a newborn due January and I want to be there for that, and if there's a fight after that, I'd like to take it."
As for the UFC 254 matchup, a smile creeps onto Whittaker's face when Cannonier's comments around oblique kicks are mentioned. The 36-year-old American suggested in an interview with ESPN's Ariel Helwani that Whittaker's "stomps" should be outlawed in the sport. The Aussie struggled to contain his amusement.
"Seems silly," he said. "I won't kick him in the knee if he doesn't punch me. He's just whinging, mate."
It'll be a short, sharp test for both men at the weekend, with the fight billed for three rounds, but regardless of the duration, Whittaker is approaching it in confident mood.
"To sum up the entire fight, it's to hit him and try not to get hit. He's a tough dude. But I think skill set-wise I'm a better than he is across the board," Whittaker said. "I'm going to take the fight wherever I want it to go. He's a resilient guy, but I'm going to go in there with the aim of finishing him, I'm going to go in there and hurt him. I'm going to use my entire skill set to the best of my ability and if he can handle it, he can handle it.
"I'm ready for anything."