Interview with UFC Fighter Robert Whittaker
Robert Whittaker is widely considered to be Australia’s brightest star when it comes to the fastest growing sport in the world, Mixed Martial Arts.
Since winning the Ultimate Fighter “The Smashes” he has gone onto fighting in the UFC and has quickly gained a huge following here in Australia as well as world wide.
I had the privilege to have a chat with him before he left for Canada to begin his training camp for a fight with another Ultimate Fighter winner Court McGee.
There has been a lot of talk regarding your last fight with Colton Smith especially with your stance and keeping your left hand down the whole duration of the fight. What was the reason for that?
I went into the fight with Colton Smith keeping my left hand down due to the strategy that Tri Star head coach Faras Zahabi and Henry Perez came up with. They got together and felt doing this along with my sideways stance would help stop the takedown and only give Colton the option of a single leg. Also keeping my hand down like that allowed me to get an instant under hook every time he attempted the single leg. I practiced the technique a lot in training and felt it worked really well during the fight.
Definitely, I really enjoyed the fight and have gone back to watch it a handful of times since. What other fighters do you like to watch and who inspires you?
I’d have to say George St Pierre, he isn’t a knock out artist or a submission specialist but he’s a warrior, comes out with the win and works really hard for it. I really enjoy watching him.
What are your goals in Mixed Martial Arts?
I’d like to have that belt around my waist one day and that’s my main goal. My whole dream is to become one of the world’s best fighters and I think I’m on a good path to getting there.
I know you came from a karate and hapkido background, how do think those forms of martial arts has helped you with your career so far?
The karate at a young age really helped me with my self discipline, along with the traditional stances and striking it helped build a great foundation for the other styles I started learning later on. I can see going backwards you are still able to inflict a lot of damage because of that karate background which only a few fighters really utilise.
A lot of your training camp is spent in Canada at Tri Star, what is that like?
It’s a great experience due to the amount of fighters training there and the level of sparring and wrestling partners. It’s really a completely different ball game compared to here where the gyms are quite isolated. I think we need to come together more and help each other out so we can take it to another level in Australia. Tri Star has such a high quality of fighters its an amazing place to train.
Who are some of the fighters there that you get to train with on a daily basis?
There is Mark Bocek, Sean Pearson, Rory McDonald, Mike Ricci and of coarse George St Pierre and its such a cool experience working with this guys.
Do you stick to a strict diet outside of a training camp when you don’t have a fight coming up?
Hahaha no,I tend to let loose and if its not deep fried I’m not eating it!
Hahaha well that leads to my next question what is your favourite food?
My favourite food is any food; as long as it doesn’t poison me I’ll eat it. I’m a huge foody.
What weight do you walk around at when you don’t have to make the 77kg limit?
Generally I walk around at about 95-96 kg’s outside of camp but I get leaner hahaha.
What music are you into and is there anything in particular that you listen to before the fight to get amped up?
Not really but if I had to narrow it down it would be some angry rap music like Machine Gun Kelly or Tech Nine.
What other sports do you follow outside of Mixed Martial Arts?
Well I grew up following Rugby League at a young age and played before I did Karate. I actually played until I was 19.
Who is your team?
The South Sydney Rabitohs! They are on fire this year.
Do you think martial arts should be introduced into schools here in Australia? You can see in the U.S that wrestling plays a huge role and gives fighters a jump start over the competition because they start so young.
I definitely think wrestling or an Olympic martial art should be an option at school but I think it’s going to be a long run before we get there.
What was your Ultimate Fighter experience like?
To be honest staying in the Ultimate Fighter house is one of the toughest things I have ever done in my life. They tried to mentally break you in there and take you out of your element and every fighter has his rituals etc to allow him to fight comfortably and none of that was allowed in there. the whole experience was really difficult but it definitely made me a stronger fighter and I’m glad I came out on top.
Do you still stay in touch with any of your fellow cast mates?
Yeah I train frequently with Manny Rodriguez and Richie Vass and keep in touch with most of the guys that were on the Aussie team.
Thanks so much for your time mate and good luck in your next fight with Court McGee.
Interviewed by Michael Francis for The Martial Arts Pty Ltd