UFC 298: Rob Whittaker realistic about sporting mortality ahead of Paulo Costa clash

Rob Whittaker is confident he can still mix it with the best in the division, but the former UFC middleweight champion has conceded he may only have three years left in the sport.

The 33-year-old faces Paulo Costa at UFC 298 in Anaheim on February 17 (Feb. 18 in Australia), hoping to put himself back in the world title picture after being knocked out at the hands of now-champion Dricus Du Plessis in his last fight.

Whittaker was the favourite going into that clash but Du Plessis stopped him in the second round with a barrage of punches after stunning the Aussie with a stiff jab on the way in.

MORE: Full list of confirmed bouts for UFC 300

Du Plessis went on to claim the title at 185-pound when he defeated Sean Strickland via split decision at UFC 297.

Whittaker is confident he could turn the tables in a rematch with the South African, believing he still has what it takes to recapture middleweight gold, but he’s honest in admitting he won’t go on forever.

“I put a bit of a time limit on myself,” Whittaker told Sporting News last month.

“36, I think, is a good time to walk away. 

“I want to make sure that I don’t leave any stone unturned. I want to leave it all in there.”

Reflecting on the relationship between the physical advantages of youth and the wisdom that comes with experience, Whittaker said he still enjoys fighting and believes he’s at his competitive peak.

“There’s a difference. As you get older, your body doesn’t bounce back as well as it used to,” he said.

“But in saying that, though, I’m much wiser and I’m a much better fighter and performer and combat athlete than I was then. And that’s a trade off, really.

“Fighting is who I am. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments in camps and in fights that just aren’t fun, but it’s where I truly feel alive. 

“It’s like this is what I do. This is what I was born to do. If I was doing anything else, I’d feel lost, I’m sure of it.”

The Sydneysider has largely kept his head down since his loss to Du Plessis, opting to get back in the gym in an effort to avoid a repeat of that situation.

“I guess it wasn’t really the loss that hurts, for me anyway,” he said.

“It’s more the disappointment that I didn’t perform, that I didn’t show up, and that ate at me.

“I sat down with my coaches and I just got back and threw myself into training because I don’t want to feel like that again. 

“I don’t want to feel like the work wasn’t done. I don’t want to arrive at a fight and not show up.”

Whittaker has since admitted to Fox Sports he probably should have pulled out of the Du Plessis bout due to injury but has refused to use it as an excuse or elaborate on the specifics.

In Costa, “The Reaper” has an opponent with the firepower to make him pay for any mistakes or a flat performance, even if the Brazilian hasn’t fought since August 2022.

Whittaker, though, said he’s ready to fight fire with fire.

“I feel like last fight I didn’t show up, I didn’t turn up,” he said.

“I want to get in the fight with Costa and just perform like all the other times, and that’s what I want you to expect – the Rob Whitaker that shows up, puts on a show.

“In a perfect world, I can just land my mitts on his face and he goes away. 

“That’s a perfect world and that’s what I’m training for, I’m training to hit him for the entire 15 minutes, trying to put him away, trying to switch him off for 15 minutes, that’s what I’ve been working.”

Whittaker will be joined by two other Aussies in Anaheim, with Alex Volkanovski looking to defend his featherweight title, while Justin Tafa faces Marcos Rogerio de Lima in a heavyweight showdown.

UFC 298 fight card

  • Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Ilia Topuria for the UFC featherweight title
  • Rob Whittaker vs. Paulo Costa; Middleweights
  • Geoff Neal vs. Ian Machado Garry; Welterweights
  • Merab Dvalishvili vs. Henry Cejudo; Bantamweights
  • Anthony Hernandez vs. Roman Kopylov; Middleweights
  • Tatiana Suarez vs. Amanda Lemos; Strawweights
  • Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Justin Tafa; Heavyweights
  • Rinya Nakamura vs. Carlos Vera; Bantamweights
  • AJ Dobson vs. Tresean Gore; Middleweights
  • Zhang Mingyang vs. Brendson Ribeiro; Light Heavyweights
  • Josh Quinlan vs. Danny Barlow; Welterweights
  • Oban Elliott vs. Val Woodburn; Welterweights
  • Andrea Lee vs. Miranda Maverick; Flyweights

Share with your friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get The Latest Sports News
Straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.