A PRESS conference prior to a UFC bout is usually an opportunity for trash-talking but middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and his challenger, former title holder Luke Rockhold, kept the lip to a minimum during a promo for their February 11 bout at Perth Arena.
Whittaker, who on Friday was handed the middleweight UFC belt when Canadian Georges St-Pierre vacated the title for health reasons, said he and his competitor “are going to put on a show”.
“His skill set is very high calibre,” Whittaker said.
“I’ve gotta be aware and give his skill set the respect it deserves.
“It’s going to be a hard fight. I know this.
“I’m sure he knows it’s going to be a hard fight and we’re going to go out there and put on a good show; trust me.”
Rockhold returned the niceties, but showed he was confident of stealing the belt away from the Australian in front of his home fans.
“(Whittaker’s) got sharp hands, he’s got power, he covers the gap well,” he said.
“It’s for me to keep pushing him outside of that gap.
“He’s gotta come in…
“Problem is, if he closes too much, he’s back into my world again.
“I think he’s got small room.”
In reply, Whittaker said: “It sounds like fun”.
“We’re not playing games out there,” he said.
“It’s a game of inches. It’s do or die and that’s what makes it so thrilling for people to watch.”
It will be an early morning for fans, with the preliminary bouts starting at 7.30am.
The main card will start about 11am.
Rockhold said it was “strange” but meant little.
“I’ve been there, I’ve done that,” he said.
Whittaker, who had previously been talked about as a matchup for St-Pierre, said he was glad to have a fight locked in.
“With the UFC anything can happen,” he said.
“There was no clear-cut match-up for me at any point in the last six months.
“I’m just happy to have closure, just happy to know that (St-Pierre) has stepped down, I’ve taken the title and I’m going to defend it come February.”
More than 14,000 people will pack the venue in two-month’s time, with as many as 8000 of those expected to pour in from interstate and overseas.
About $7.25 million could be injected into the local economy.
The pay-per-view event will be watched by more than 15 million people worldwide.
A UFC spokesman said a second title-fight was on the cards, although nothing had been confirmed.
“Yeah (a second title fight is) definitely very possible and right now that’s what the matchmakers are looking into,” he said.
Heavyweight Mark Hunt – recently cleared by medical professionals to continue his career – is also on the UFC’s radar to fight.
Tickets go on sale to the public on Friday.