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Robert Whittaker uninterested in third booking with Paulo Costa for next fight

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Missing out on a home game at UFC 284 in Perth was the last straw for Robert Whittaker when it came to Paulo Costa.

The February pay-per-view event marked the second time a fight between the two had fallen apart because of Costa, and now Whittaker has written off the Brazilian.

“I was very upset with Costa kind of playing silly buggers a little bit,” Whittaker said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I think you were the one that was like, ‘I’m pretty sure he said he’s not fighting,’ and I refused to admit it.

“Well, I can’t think he’s not fighting anyway, because it changes the mentality for the camp and the training. But yeah, I was just putting in as much work as I could. It fell through.”

Whittaker then shifted his attention to a middleweight title fight between his two-time opponent, champ Israel Adesanya, and Alex Pereira at UFC 287. Adesanya knocked out Pereira to recapture the title and earn his first combat sports win over the Brazilian.

With two previous losses to Adesanya, Whittaker’s position worsened. A fifth fight between Adesanya and Pereira was taken off the table with the announcement of Pereira’s move to light heavyweight, but that didn’t necessarily open the door for Whittaker.

Costa is one of the few top-ranked opponents Whittaker hasn’t faced. But he has drawn a line in the sand.

“I’m not fighting him because, mate, this is the second time I was supposed to fight him and he’s pulled out, and it just mucks everything up,” Whittaker said. “I have to do a whole camp, and I make expenses and costs and everything like that to get to a point where he falls away. This is the second time he’s done it. I want a fight that’s going to happen. I want a sure thing.”

Another name that’s been at the front of many fans’ minds is Khamzat Chimaev, whose middleweight move has been teased several times since his disastrous weight miss at welterweight. But Whittaker also isn’t keen on that name.

“Chimaev, he’s not in the division rankings,” Whittaker continued. “I’m not a huge fan of guys just sliding in fighting wherever they want. It’s a different place. Like, the rankings are there for a reason, right? I like fighting top-five guys. That just where I’m at. I like fighting top about five guys, because they’re the guys that they’re the best of the best, and they’ve earned, worked their way through the division to get there.

“It is so much harder to work your way through a division than to just slide in at the top, because [it’s] so much easier if you have one fight, or two fights, and you get to fight [for a title in the] second fight [with] Pereira. There are a lot of dudes in the top 20 of the middleweight division that will give Pereira a hard time, much more of a hard time than Israel. And that’s the truth, and you know that, and everybody else knows that.”

“That’s why I like these guys that are in the top five, because they’ve worked their way up, much like I did. You work your way up and you beat all these contenders, and I like that. It’s a system that we have and should be respected.”

The integrity of the system known as the UFC’s rankings has repeatedly been questioned, if not outright dismissed, by observers who see inconsistencies in the opportunities given out to particular fighters. Whittaker understands that despite the number next to his name, it’s unlikely he’ll get a third crack at Adesanya. That won’t keep him from trying, however.

“It doesn’t bother me, because mate, I understand the position that I’m in,” he said. “I understand that I fought him twice, and I want that third fight, and if I have to ruin a lot of other people’s days to get it, then I’ll do that. That’s kind of my argument. … It took him four times to get the win [over Pereira], where I know it’ll only take me three.”



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