Robert Whittaker has shown challenger Yoel Romero the utmost respect ahead of their UFC middleweight showdown on Saturday.
The Australian, who was promoted to middleweight champion after Georges St. Pierre vacated the title due to illness, has not fought in nearly a year as a result of injury.
Last time out, he edged Romero at UFC 213 in July 2017 via unanimous decision for the interim title. Now, Whittaker gets to face the dangerous Cuban once more with a real belt at stake and he is under no illusions as to the challenge he faces.
“He’s a very unorthodox, explosive guy,” the 27-year-old told MMA Junkie.
“He’s built like a specimen. He’s got very high-quality skillsets. He’s a dangerous guy on the best of days, honestly. So I’m going to go in there knowing, giving him the respect of the threat that he is, and I’m going to do everything in my power to put him away.”
Whittaker was able to control the octagon and out-point Romero the first time out, but understands he cannot rest on his laurels against the number one contender come Saturday.
“I think if you break down the first fight, you can walk away with a lot of minor victories,” continued Whittaker.
“I can be proud of an achievement such as getting over adversity, but Yoel’s a dangerous dude. He catches you on the wrong day, he puts you out. He hits like a truck. He’s dangerously explosive. He’s No. 1 for a good reason. You have to give him the respect he deserves.
“The essence of the fight is still the same. This is the same type of fight that I’ve had every fight in my career. I take it with the same approach. I’m just a little better at everything.
“Regardless of the results, I’m going in there happy that all the prep’s been done, and that I’ll walk away a better person.”
UFC 225 takes place at the United Centre in Chicago, with Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington facing off for the welterweight belt on the main card.