ROBERT WHITTAKER is refusing to let the prospect of a Trans-Tasman trilogy fight with Israel Adesanya enter his mind ahead of his showdown with Dricus Du Plessis.
The former long-reigning middleweight champion returns to action early on Sunday morning on a stacked UFC 290 card in Las Vegas.
A win over Du Plessis would not only provide Whittaker with the opportunity to reclaim the middleweight throne, it would also give him another chance to finally get one over The Last Stylebender.
But revenge, no matter how sweet it would be, will stay at the back of Whittaker’s mind until he halts Du Plessis’ surge up the ranks.
The Reaper told SunSport: “There’s nothing past July 8 that exists right now. And that’s the truth of it.
“I have the hardest fight of my career, to date, on July 8. And that’s all I’m focused on [right now].
“That’s the only thing that’s locked in and I’ll worry about the rest afterwards.”
Du Plessis – the poster boy for South African MMA – has been a wrecking ball since making his UFC bow on Fight Island in October 2020.
The 29-year-old has finished all but one of his opponents with his wild and unorthodox style, elements of which Whittaker – unlike many others – believes are dangerous.
Australia’s first UFC champion said of Still Knocks: “He’s a tough dude.
“And he’s a guy that if you don’t go in there aware of [the fact] that he’s going to turn this fight into a dogfight and that he’s going to be in this fight for the entire 15 minutes, then you’re in a lot of trouble.
“If you underestimate this guy, you’re in trouble. He’s a tough guy, he’s got all the skill sets.
Du Plessis’ ability to finish fights – especially during his UFC run – has also impressed Whittaker.
The 32-year-old said of the former EFC welter and middleweight champion: “He’s obviously got good instincts to take a victory when he sees it.
“Whether that be with the hands, the grappling or the wrestling.
“He’s a tough stud and I fully understand that, fully respect that and that’s why I so hard for this fight.”
Whittaker’s respect for DDP’s unique style is apparent, but he firmly believes he can use his aggressiveness against him to get a late finish.
“I reckon he comes out hard, comes out fast and aggressive,” Whittaker said.
“But I think I weather that [storm[ and just start to pick him apart and hopefully put him away.”