Fighter of the Week: Robert Whittaker
Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker
Pro Record: 18 wins & 4 losses
Association: PMA Super Martial Arts
Weight Class: Middleweight/Welterweight
In this week’s addition of FOTW we’ll take a look at middleweight fighter, Robert Whittaker, who scored a huge “upset” TKO victory overly heavily favored middleweight, Ronaldo Souza at this past weekend’s ‘UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Reis’. Whittaker is one of the most diverse fighters in the division with a background in many disciplines, including black-belt’s in Karate and Hapkido as well as a purple-belt in BJJ. Whittaker has been on an absolute tear since moving up in weight to the Middleweight division of the UFC (6-0) and still at just 26-years old the best may be yet to come for the New Zealand-born Australian. His skills in the Octagon are clearly developing and he’s now starting to turn heads in the process.
Whittaker began martial arts at a young age with support from his father, who is a believer in the values of martial arts. He trained Karate for the first eight years and then switched to a Hapkido gym ran by Henry Perez. Perez then transitioned the gym to MMA, which forced Whittaker to make the move to MMA and propelled his career in the sport. The gym specializes in Thai Boxing & BJJ and Whittaker was their star pupil. By the age of 18, Whittaker had started his MMA career. Whittaker would start his MMA career 7-0, ending all fights in round 1. It wasn’t until his first fight outside of his home country where he would first taste defeat in a submission loss to Hoon Kim at Legend Fighting in Macau. Within two months of his first loss Whittaker was back in the win column in the Cage Fighting Championships promotion, making him a perfect 7-0 in the organization (8-1 overall). Whittaker would win his first career title at welterweight in the Superfight Australia promotion. This win would prompt a move back to and an immediate title fight in the Cage Fighting Championships against Bellator and Strikeforce veteran, Jesse Juarez. Whittaker would lose the bout by decision giving him the second loss of his career.
Shortly after his loss in CFC, Whittaker would get the call that would change his career. He was asked to be on ‘TUF: The Smashes’, getting it’s name from the England-Australia cricket rivalry ‘The Ashes’, which pitted UK vs. Australia in the shows tournament format. The fighters were coached by Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos, respectively. It didn’t take long for Whittaker to establish himself as an early favorite as he won his first fight via KO at just 19 seconds of round 1. In his next fight in the semi-finals, he faced his countryman Xavier Lucas who was a fill-in due to the previous fighter missing weight. Whittaker would end this fight early again, winning by TKO (punches) in round 1. This would setup the finale against England’s Brad Scott, which Whittaker won by unanimous decision making him the TUF winner and earning a contract in the biggest MMA organization in the world at just 21-years old.
Whittaker would follow up his TUF victory with a TKO of Colton Smith at UFC 160. Whittaker would drop his next two fights with the first against another TUF winner, Court McGee. It was a back-and forth contest that McGee ended up taking via a controversial split decision, with one judge scoring the bout 30-27 for Whittaker. Whittaker would follow that up by suffering the first back-to-back losses of his career after losing to The Takeover’s current #2 WW, Stephen Thompson by TKO (punches) in round 1. After getting back in the win column against Mike Rhodes at UFC Fight Night 43, Whittaker would make the move up to Middleweight stating he’d always knew it was his natural weight class and he looked forward not having to cut 18-20 lbs. to make weight anymore. So far, so good as he’s reeled off 6-straight wins in the division adding three Performance of the Night bonuses and two Fight of the Night bonuses to his resume in that span. None of which more impressive than his TKO victory of Ronaldo Souza this past weekend. Before the fight Whittaker stated “Thank God it’s not a jiu-jitsu match”, crediting Souza’s BJJ pedigree. However, Souza wasn’t just a BJJ grappler as he’s knocked out some of the best in the division and until Whittaker’s TKO victory had never been KO’d in the UFC.
Whittaker is clearly getting better with every fight and he made no secret about who he wanted to fight next stating “Bisping owes me a fight”. He certainly made a case for himself this weekend, however with champion Michael Bisping preparing for a fight with GSP, it doesn’t look like he’ll get his wish anytime soon. One thing is for certain, Whittaker isn’t going anywhere and this stacked division is only that much better with him in it. When asked what his favorite striking technique was he said simply; “the one that lands”. The head kick and punches combo seems to be working for now. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.