Whittaker: UFC Stopped Commonwealth Games Run
Robert Whittaker had no competitive wrestling experience prior to getting into MMA. Now in 2018, Whittaker is the UFC Middleweight Champion — and he nearly competed in the Commonwealth Games scheduled for next month.
As reported by MMA Fighting, Whittaker won Australia’s national freestyle championship at the -97kg weight division last year, and he won the qualifying tournament to make Australia’s national team back in November to have the right to participate in the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth Games are a mini-Olympics for countries that are a part of the British Commonwealth.
“Obviously, wrestling is a vital part of mixed martial arts,” Whittaker said. “I managed to compete in wrestling to sharpen my skills, one thing led to another and it led to the Commonwealth Games.”
Whittaker, however, has pulled out due to his upcoming title defense against Yoel Romero at UFC 225 on June 9 in Chicago. Whittaker was scheduled to defend the title back in February at UFC 221, in his home country, but a staph infection caused him to pull from the event.
The UFC was reportedly not happy with Whittaker competing at the Commonwealth Games, especially with it and his title defense being so close in time. Allegedly, Whittaker wasn’t denied participation by the UFC itself, but rather warned him millions of dollars of promotion was on the line with him competing at the games. And if Whittaker competed there and was injured and had to withdraw from the UFC event, the MMA promotion would strip him of the middleweight championship.
“The UFC wasn’t too happy with my competing in the Commonwealth Games,” Whittaker said. “I was told I would have been stripped of the title if I had gotten injured. Everyone knows my priority. This (UFC) is my job.
“It’s not really a choice to be made. If it’s a choice, providing finances and putting food on the table and being paid for my job, or competing in the Commonwealth Games where I’m not making money, is there really a choice to be made? I thought for an hour or two, but there was never a choice to be made.”
Original Story: MMA Fighting