Robert Whittaker reacts to Khamzat Chimaev fight at UFC Saudi Arabia: ‘It’s a bit of a shock’

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Robert Whittaker is ready to reclaim the middleweight title.
On Wednesday, UFC CEO Dana White announced a slew of fights for the promotion’s debut event in Saudi Arabia, including a middleweight main event between Whittaker and Khamzat Chimaev. And according to Whittaker, this fight is not just a main event, but a title eliminator bout.
“It’s going to be a contender fight, five-round main event,” Whittaker said on the MMArcade podcast. “I do understand the task at hand. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to be grinding my ass off this camp. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a good thing, after last fight I didn’t have any injuries. The body is good. They offered me the fight. I fought four or five weeks ago at this point, I’m ready. Just give me another one.
“I’m in a great headspace to take another hard fight. I’m looking forward to it. Every hard fight pushes my skills to the next level, and this gets me in line to get the belt back. That’s the goal, isn’t it?”
The former undisputed UFC middleweight champion, Whittaker lost his title to Israel Adesanya back in 2019 and then came up short in their rematch in 2022. Most recently, Whittaker took a unanimous decision victory over Paulo Costa at UFC 298, putting himself back in the title conversation. However, even Whittaker was surprised by this turn of events, as he says he was anticipating returning at UFC 305 in Perth, Australia.
“Obviously it’s a bit of a shock because it comes out of nowhere,” Whittaker said. “I would have assumed UFC was going to hold me in the ranks for the Australia card in August, which is kind of what I was preparing for. But I’m happy UFC have given me this boon. This is my path to the title. This is the way I earn money for my kids. To be able to do that so close — like I’ve said in other episodes, I want to increase my activity. God willing and my body’s healthy, there’s no reason I shouldn’t take this fight. What else am I going to be doing?
“Also, the fact that the fight is in Saudi Arabia, that’s the first time the UFC has been there. So I am pumped to be part of that history. I’ve done that a few times now, and it all gets notched into my legacy. So I have direction now. I have energy, momentum.”
While Whittaker has some momentum now, so does Chimaev.
“Borz” established himself as a budding star in the UFC when he fought three times in two months back in 2020, and since then he’s added four more wins to his UFC résumé. Most recently, Chimaev won a majority decision over Kamaru Usman at UFC 294, putting himself on the cusp of title contention. And on top of the title implications, that run of success in the UFC is why Whittaker is so excited for this fight.
“I understand he’s a hard fighter,” Whittaker said. “He likes to grapple a lot. He uses his reach and range to good effectiveness. He’s got knockout power. But honestly, he likes to play the villain against his opponents, but he’s an honorable fighter. We’re going to get in there and have an honest fight. We’re both going to leave it in there. He’s not a quitter, I’m not a quitter. So I’m looking forward to really making history in Saudi Arabia.”
UFC Saudi Arabia takes place on June 22 at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh.

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