UFC president Dana White said no. 1 contender Robert Whittaker is next in line for a title shot after the winner between UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori is decided at UFC 263.
There was frequent speculation as to who could be next after Whittaker turned down an opportunity to fight Adesanya for the belt at UFC 263.
The UFC pivoted, and gave the title shot to no. 3 ranked contender Marvin Vettori because Whittaker needed time to heal from his fight with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24 and of course, time to prepare for his potential rematch with Adesanya.
White assured that he understood why Whittaker declined, and his declination did not affect whether he will get the title shot once the former champion and current no. 1 contender is ready.
“Obviously he was next and if he couldn’t do it, it’s no big deal,” White said to Submission Radio. “He’s not going anywhere. He’s the number one contender. Take your time, get your s–t together and we’ll get it figured out.”
White then asserted Whittaker will fight the winner of Adesanya and Vettori for the middleweight title.
“When you’re talking about what’s next for [Whittaker], that’s absolutely next,” White said.
White also put to bed rumors that middleweight contenders like Darren Till could jump over Whittaker for a title shot with victories in his upcoming fight with Derek Brunson later this Summer.
“Nobody’s jumping over Whittaker,” White said. “He’s next.”
Quite frankly, Whittaker is clearly the most deserving of a title fight out of any of the top five contenders in the middleweight division.
Since he lost the belt to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 in Oct. 2019, Whittaker won his last three fights against top contenders like Darren Till, Jared Cannonier and Kelvin Gastelum.
With assurance from Dana White, Whittaker can now solely focus on preparation to potentially regain the UFC middleweight title.