LOS ANGELES — Robert Whittaker wants the punishments to be steep for fighters who miss weight. Instead, the UFC seems to be going in the opposite direction.
Yoel Romero missed weight at UFC 221 in February, only to beat Luke Rockhold and earn a title shot against Whittaker at UFC 225 in June. Romero, of course, missed weight prior to the Whittaker bout and was unable to win the middleweight belt had he been victorious. Whittaker ended up winning by split decision.
The UFC is going back to that same well in two weeks. Darren Till is challenging welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in the main event of UFC 228 in Dallas. In his last fight, Till missed weight by three pounds.
Whittaker, 27, seems to find the whole thing ludicrous. He said Monday at a media lunch to promote Wednesday’s premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 28.
“It’s like me going down to bantamweight, not making weight, winning because I’m much bigger and then getting a title shot,” said Whittaker, who coaches opposite Kelvin Gastelum on TUF 28. “It’s not fair. It’s not fair. Because on the flip side, the guys that are making weight don’t make it easy. It wasn’t easy to cut weight and make weight and do the job. We still had to struggle, we still had to diet weeks out. We’re just more professional at it. We just did it right.”
Whittaker (20-4) said he thought about not fighting Romero when he missed weight at UFC 225 in Chicago, but it was a nearly impossible decision to make. He wanted to fight, flew a long way from Australia to compete, needed to get paid and didn’t want to let down all of his fans.
“The people who do make weight are also in a hard position,” Whittaker said. “Because they’re in a position where they still need to make money to pay the bills, to earn a wage, to do their job. But they also have the support of hundreds of thousands of people who have come to see them fight or that are watching them on TV to watch a fight. The fans. That’s kind of why you fight — they drive the sport.
“When you ask a guy, ‘Are you gonna take a fight if your opponent doesn’t make weight?’ Is it really asking? Does he really have a choice? When you back them into a corner like that, is there really a choice to be made? You have to look at the whole process behind it.”
Woodley could be in a similar spot against Till at UFC 228 on Sept. 8, but the UFC has a backup plan in Kamaru Usman, who will weigh-in and step into the bout in case something goes wrong with Woodley or Till. Woodley, though, said Monday on The Ariel Helwani MMA Show that he’ll fight Till whether he makes weight or not.
Whittaker likely won’t have anything to worry about in his next title defense against Gastelum, who has moved up from welterweight much like Whittaker has. The two will meet sometime early next year, Whittaker said. The New Zealand native broke his right hand and needed surgery after the UFC 225 fight against Romero. He also damaged ligaments in his left hand in that bout.
After filming TUF, Whittaker and his coach went to Colorado to train at altitude. He’s heading back to Australia this week to continue rehab on his hands. Once he feels like they’re 100 percent and he can train fully, that’s when he said he’ll hash out when the fight with Gastelum can go down.
Unlike with Romero, Whittaker will probably not have to worry about his opponent battling the scale and being put in a precarious position the eve of a scheduled fight. “The Reaper” feels like it’s hard to swallow that UFC fighters are getting title shots after what he believes is “cheating” by missing weight.
“It’s a very funny topic, missing weight and getting title shots,” Whittaker said. “I think the punishments should be more severe, but I don’t know.”