Robert Whittaker has spoken about the personal battle that forced him to take time out from all MMA-related activity.
The former UFC middleweight champion withdrew from his scheduled UFC 248 bout with Jared Cannonier in January as rumours spread that Whittaker was to donate bone marrow to his daughter.
However, in a revealing interview with Australia’s Daily Telegraph, Whittaker put to bed any of the rumours surrounding him and his family.
“I have no idea where that came from,” Whittaker said.
“During the break, I got off all social media to spend time with family, so it was my old man who actually contacted me, explaining there was this crazy rumour going around, and from there, it just got a life of its own. But my kids were all fine. They are fine. It was me who had the issue.”
The issue Whittaker speaks of is one that he describes as “burn out”.
The Australian fighter discussed how a moment of clarity halfway up Sydney’s famous Wanda dunes, something that was a Sunday morning ritual for him, made Whittaker realise that he needed to step away from the sport until he worked out “how to stop feeling this way.”
“I was completely burnt out, and walking back to the car afterwards, I told myself that what I was doing, it wasn’t normal.
“That I couldn’t keep going like that. So after arriving home, I got straight on the phone to my team, who had been at Wanda with me, and said ‘everything is paused until I work out how to stop feeling this way’.”
When pressed on why he never informed either his coaches or his family on how he was feeling, in typical fighter’s fashion, Whittaker explains how he felt he had to bite down on his mouthguard and work through his struggles.
“Because you can’t have doubts. You can’t say ‘hey, maybe I’m burnt out’.
“As soon as one fight is over, you have another title fight on the way. So the negative thoughts, you block them out.
“You bite down on your mouthguard and work through.
Even @bisping found it hard to trash talk Robert Whittaker after his fight with Yoel Romero 😂
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) April 24, 2020
“And physically, we were training at an intellectual level, with loads and spreadsheets, lighter sessions that involved stretching. But again, mentally I was burnt out.
“And you can only do that so long before you wind up in a fight below your mental best.”
That fight came for Whittaker in October of last year when he lost his middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in front of 60,000 fans in Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, a fight he admits he wasn’t at his best for.
“I just wasn’t myself. That’s the game though, you rock up and fight.
“But I know I can perform much better, and have performed much better.”
Whittaker was touted for a return later this year at UFC Dublin, however, whether the event will go ahead or not is currently up in the air.