Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker looks to shatter Khamzat Chimaev’s confidence in the octagon.

During an appearance on the Mighty video podcast, Whittaker told ex-UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson that he accepted Chimaev at UFC Saudi Arabia to see whether the Chechen fighter’s hype is real.

“I think impressed is the wrong word,” Whittaker said. “I think he’s a good fighter, and I think he’s got a great headspace for the craft, and he knows what he does well, and he goes out there with undoubted confidence in what he can do. And that makes a very dangerous recipe.

“But it also something that, if it gets shaken, then you don’t know which way the cards are gonna fall. So I’m looking forward to testing that, to see how big the hype is.”

It’s not the first time Whittaker has found himself in this position. Prior to outpointing Paulo Costa at UFC 298, he took on Dricus du Plessis, who was then a fast-rising contender untested against championship-level opponents. Du Plessis stopped him in the first round of their UFC 290 showdown and went on to defeat Sean Strickland for the UFC middleweight title at UFC 297.

Despite Chimaev’s middleweight debut win over ex-welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, UFC commentator Joe Rogan called Whittaker a “real fight” for the unbeaten fighter.

At the very least, Whittaker said he presents a different set of challenges to contend with in the octagon.

“I’d like to think that I’m going to go in there with a speed advantage and a striking advantage,” he said. “One of his greatest strengths is the fact that he can force the wrestling on people, and I think it’s going to be a little harder to force the wrestling on me, just because of my distance, because of my control of spacing.

“I’m really looking forward to this fight. I think it’s going be a hard fight. I want to take that same mentality into this fight, and look to take him to war, and just earn this win. I’m going to earn this win, and this puts me in perfect direction for a title shot and condition for a title shot, which has always been the goal.”

Whittaker’s prospect for another title run brightened considerably when two-time opponent and former champ Israel Adesanya was defeated by Strickland. Prior to that, Whittaker faced the possibility of serving as a gatekeeper for the division.

If Adesanya defeats du Plessis in a title fight expected to take place at UFC 305, a win over Chimaev could give Whittaker the argument to take a third fight against “The Last Stylebender.” Whittaker believes he is a better fighter than the ex-champ despite his dual setbacks.

“You put the fact that it’s against Chimaev, who’s got a lot of hype, he’s going to bring a lot of eyes,” Whittaker said. “He is the boogeyman in the division at the moment – nobody wants to fight him. No one wants to have a go with him. So I get to have that run at him, which will be fun. I think they’re the fights that excite me, because they’re the tests. They’re the type of fights I get a lot of honor and pride out of.”

So far no one has been able to solve the puzzle of Chimaev in the octagon. Whittaker doesn’t promise an easy night of work – only the willingness to test his opponent at his best.

“Whenever you’re preparing for a fight, the version of your opponent in your head is always way worse than the version you actually fight, excluding [my] last fight [against du Plessis], because dude was way better than I thought he would be,” he said with a laugh.

Whittaker’s full interview is below.

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