Adesanya (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) knocked out Whittaker (23-5 MMA, 14-3 UFC) in 2019 at UFC 243 to claim the middleweight title, and the pair are set to run things back Feb. 12 at Toyota Center in Houston.
Whittaker admitted he got too emotional in the lead-up to their first fight and while Adesanya appreciates him acknowledging that, he understands that having self-awareness can make Whittaker more dangerous than his previous opponents.
“This is the best I’ve ever come into a camp in shape, and I’m not going out of shape I promise you that,” Adesanya said on his YouTube channel. “I have a point to prove to myself, but just also to like, you know, those people, I just want to shut them the f*ck up. I mean the motivation for me is just that he’s not making excuses like (Marvin) Vettori or (Paulo) Costa.
“He’s accepted his loss. He finally admitted that I was in his head, and he was emotional, and I was like, ‘Yeah, you finally admitted what I was saying this whole f*cking time,’ so that makes me take him seriously. He’s accepted that, so that makes me take him seriously that OK, he’s got a point to prove, as well, and he’s been training. He’s motivated. That gets me up in the morning to shut him up again worse than the first time. That’s what gets me motivated.”
Adesanya put a striking masterclass on Whittaker to capture the title, knocking him down at the end of Round 1 before putting him away in the second. But since then, Whittaker has rebounded emphatically with three big wins over Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum as he looks to reclaim his title.