Robert Whittaker….The Humble King
Article courtesy of Wayne Carl of MMA Freaks
The Humble King
Robert John Whittaker, a.k.a. Bobby Knuckles a.k.a. The Reaper.
Call the New Zealand born, Sydney Australian raised whatever you like , just add UFC Champion to it.
Robert Whittaker embodies what is great about combat sport. Honor, respect, and sportsmanship.
Statements like “It’s an honor to share the ring”, “I’m immensely proud to represent Australia and New Zealand”, are said sincerely.
A family man at heart, Robert Whittaker knows nothing else but to be the down to earth kid raised in Sydney. These days the UFC is smothered in WWE build up, bullshit, and false bravado. Playing the ‘heel‘ I hear many UFC journalists, podcasters, and bloggers defending their tiresome actions. These made up characters are making the sport I love look and sound cringe worthy and amateurish.
The likes of Colby ‘5 minutes of fame‘ Covington find it necessary to talk up a fight, attack the man as such and overstep the mark just to create a character, to cause a confrontation. Many will argue, that yes, we are mentioning them again. That is what they want. I look at it from this angle.
The legacy that the likes of Robert Whittaker leave to the sport, family, friends, and most importantly their kids far outweighs the extra few dollars made by selling their personal integrity and brand.
As a fan I fondly remember the great Matt Hughes for his humility much more than I remember Frank Trigg being obnoxious. I’d like to remember Ronda Rousey as the fighter who sat and hugged Cat Zingano after catching her in a quick submission than the brat who flat refused to shake hands with her opponent.
TUF ( The Ultimate Fighter ) the making of a champion
Going into a TUF house as a 22 year old with a ( 9-2 ) record there was something different about the way he went about things. A house full of crazy Australians and boring Englishman Robert Whittaker was like a sponge wanting to learn from every high level session. ‘Smashing’ through the house he KO’d both Luke Newman and Xavier Lucas in the first round setting up a finale against the underrated Brad Scott. Showing maturity above his years Robert Whittaker was able to take out the show and announce a new kid on the block.
Early fights in the UFC saw a young Robert Whittaker have mixed results at Welterweight. His frame was changing and he was finding it difficult with the weight cut. After consecutive loses to UFC warriors Stephen ‘Wonderboy ‘ Thompson and Court McGee, then a hard weight cut and win over Mike Rhodes, a decision to fight at a much more comfortable weight of Middleweight was decided.
The Reaper Arrives – let the run begin
Clint Hester was a highly taunted UFC prospect, with a intimating scowl and a powerful boxing based fighting style. Whittaker weathered the early storm, and once Hester realized that it he was playing with as much fire as he had, he slowly lost confidence and Whittaker TKO’d the America in the second.
Brad Tavares was next as the UFC stepped up the level of middleweight challenges. 44 seconds in and the likeable Tavares was wondering if he was in Adelaide or Vegas.
Fellow UFC stud Uriah Hall was next. This was supposed to be too hard of a challenge. Whittaker being a striker, Hall went in as favourite. Showing maturity above his years a tough fought decision win over a motivated Uriah Hall was a massive stepping stone.
Rafael Natal was next and Whittaker showed his tenancy by fighting through injury and winning a war over a gritty veteran.
Main Event time. Robert Whittaker would head line against Derek Brunson. Sitting fifth row I can still remember the moment half way through the first round. He had caught Brunson wildly running in. The Reaper had weathered the early storm, he took the center of the octagon and stared down his opponent. A head kick then some ground and pound, the Top 10 prospect didn’t know what way was left or right.
Arguably the toughest opponent in the middleweight division awaited. Jacare Souza is the most feared BJJ expert is the division. Although getting on in years , this was The Reapers biggest test. Once taken down, Whittaker did not panic like all before him. He stayed calm , got back to his feet and reset. Once again , The Reaper took the middle of the Octogan and laid those fast devastating hands on the Brazilian, game over.
Interim title time ( that become unified ). Yoel Romero , owner of an amazing physique, devastating power and questionable fighting ethics. Yoel would damage Whittakers front leg early in the first round. Aussies don’t back down, they don’t wilt under pressure, Whittaker bit down on his mouth piece and won the last 3 rounds on one leg. Robert Whittakers striking is worlds best practice, add in excellent take down defence, and an underrated BJJ you have the current, you have the future UFC middleweight champion.
Australia and New Zealand are proud of the fighter his amazing, coaches, team and family have helped create. We are also proud of the way he carries himself inside and outside the ring.
Long live the humble king!