Robert Whittaker declares himself championship-level after tough UFC on ESPN 14 win vs. Darren Till – MMA Junkie

ABU DHABI – Robert Whittaker was elated following his UFC on ESPN 14 win.

In his first fight since losing his title to current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya last October, Whittaker (21-5 MMA, 12-3 UFC) joked around, laughed and smiled his way through Saturday night’s post-fight news conference.

Jokes aside, Whittaker said he felt relieved by the result but reiterated that the fight itself was one of the most stressful, tactical fights he’s ever been involved in.

“(I feel) good, I guess,” Whittaker told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Flash Forum. “Really, really relieved. Obviously there was a lot of pressure and stress going into this fight. I’m just happy. I’m just happy I got the result that we came here for. I’m happy the work trip was successful. I’m happy that I got to showcase some of my skill sets and open up. I’ve got to fight adversity in the fight again. Yeah, it is what it is. It was a great fight, a stressful fight.”

“… That was the most technical striking fight I’ve ever had. It was a chess match. I got a bit antsy in the first round – and he made me pay for it. I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, not like this.’ But honestly, I got back up, and it was like, ‘I got to get back to work (and) change it up a little bit.’ It was just a chess match from then. He was waiting for me to come in. I was waiting for him to come in.”

For five rounds, Whittaker and Till (18-3-1 MMA, 6-3-1 UFC) picked each other apart. In the end, Whittaker got the unanimous decision nod with three 48-47 scores. Despite how close it was, Whittaker said he was confident going into the official decision that he had done enough.

“I understood that it was a really close fight,” Whittaker said. “I think the second round was definitely mine, third round, fourth round could have gone either way, but I think I showed my championship-level mentality and experience in that last round – especially where it was so close to the hands in the stand-up game. Then to finish it off taking him down was a big boom in the scorecards for me.”

With this victory still fresh, Whittaker’s fighting future isn’t on the forefront of his mind. He said he wants to go home and spend time with his family before reentering fight preparation. When the time comes, however, Whittaker said he’ll be ready for his crack at the title.

“My biggest thing right now is that I want to go back home to my babies, to my wife, and just – that’s why I do all this,” Whittaker said. “That’s why I can do what I do. It’s because of them.

“Honestly, I am championship-level. Everyone can see that. Everyone always knows that. I wasn’t myself last fight. I believe that. Not to take anything away from (Adesanya). He’s a great striker, but I wasn’t myself last fight. I think it was a good win. I’m a champion with the belt (or) without the belt. It doesn’t matter. It is what it is. I’m looking forward to getting back to work and just seeing how that next fight goes.”

UFC on ESPN 14 took place Saturday at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The event simulcasted on ESPN and ESPN+.