Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Robert Whittaker is one of the most accomplished middleweights in UFC history, but the timing was never right for him to face the man considered to be the division’s all-time best.
With his recent loss to Uriah Hall at UFC Vegas 12, Anderson Silva may have competed inside the octagon for the last time, and that means a battle between Silva and Whittaker, two former champions, is unlikely to ever take place now. Whittaker’s rise through the ranks coincided with Silva’s decline, so matching them up didn’t make sense, which “The Reaper” acknowledged in a recent episode of What the Heck.
“We never crossed paths because we’re like a decade difference in age,” Whittaker said when asked about the missed opportunity. “I’m young and going up, he’s getting old and heading down. I don’t know how to say that in a non-insulting way, because I have the utmost respect for him, but age gets everybody. It gets everybody. It doesn’t matter how good you look, it gets everybody. And you can see that in him.
“You can see that his timing is half a second off, he can’t take the shots like he could when he was younger, he doesn’t hit quite as hard. Anderson Silva back in his prime, he couldn’t get touched, and when he got touched he shrugged off everything. He was unstoppable, he was uncanny, but it required the perfect balance of youth and physical attributes and talent. Whereas now he’s experienced and the talent is obviously there, that’s why he’s still competitive, that’s why he’s still doing so well, but his youth and his physical attributes have declined a little bit. When you’re fighting top-caliber dudes, top-tier guys, like young, hungry, physical guys – look at the specimen of Uriah Hall. You’re fighting a dude that’s in the prime of his physical abilities and with the talent to go with it, it’s just scary.”
At 45 years old, Silva showed flashes of his past greatness before being stopped by strikes in the fourth round of his fight with Hall. Given that Whittaker doesn’t turn 30 until next month, does he see himself fighting into his 40s?
“Hell no,” Whittaker said. “This game is stressful. That’s another thing, these guys that fight throughout their late 30s, early 40s, this game never gets easier. Every fight, never gets easier. The stresses and the nerves are always there. Like, always. I don’t know why they just keep throwing themselves into this game. It is crazy, in my opinion.
“I have a soft cap, and I’m obviously going to go on how my body feels, but if I start getting knocked out and start losing, my health comes first – I’m gonna just bow out.”
Whittaker set his soft cap at 35, hoping he can not only continue to fight at a high level, but do so without hindering his future health. After all, he has a fourth child on the way, and he wants to be able to spend quality time with them when he’s wrapped up his MMA career.
“Let’s say, touch wood, I’m not performing as well as I want to at 35, then I’m gonna be in the prime physique to still run circles around my kids, which sounds like a pretty good gig,” Whittaker said.