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'His past doesn't bother me': Aussie prepares for UFC battle

Yoel Romero (left) and Robert Whittaker pose during media day for UFC 213 in Las Vegas.
Yoel Romero (left) and Robert Whittaker pose during media day for UFC 213 in Las Vegas. Erik Verduzco

IT'S the kind of single-minded, level-headed approach that's helped Robert Whittaker get to this point.

The Kiwi-born Australian will face one of the UFC's most controversial figures in Yoel Romero at UFC 213 this weekend, but he refuses get riled up by the Cuban's shady past.

In fact, it's as if Whittaker almost welcomes the controversy, such is his desire to beat the feared fighter at his peak.

"He's one of the best athletes, one of the top-level athletes in the world and what he does in his off-season, what he's been popped for, it won't affect me fighting him," Whittaker said.

Romero's "dirty" reputation stems from a failed drug test in 2015 - he tested positive to a banned substance that stimulates human growth hormone release but USADA accepted his claim he had not knowingly taken it - while questionable tactics in the Octagon also haven't enamoured him to rivals.

"You know what, his past doesn't bother me," Whittaker said,

"There is literally nothing I can do about it regardless, so there's no point crying over spilt milk.

"I'm just going to fight Yoel Romero at his best. I'm going to assume he's going to be twice as strong, twice as fast and I'm going to look forward to fighting against that.

"It's just about what I've got to do. I'm always just assuming my opponent's that much better than me anyway."

That kind of talk has become a hallmark of Whittaker's journey to the brink of history. He would become the first Australian to win a UFC belt by beating Romero to the interim middleweight title in Las Vegas on Sunday (AEST).

It's by far the biggest moment of the 26-year-old's career but, in true Whittaker style, little has changed in his approach and preparation.

"The program for me stays exactly the same," Whittaker said.

"I've been having a lot of success on the program and off the back of every camp, every fight, I just get better.

"I do the program more efficiently, with less days off, and every fight you're seeing a better Rob Whittaker in there.

"My coaching staff have studied him (Romero). They do it rigorously ... and then they manipulate my training so that effectively I'm training for him but I don't know the change.

"At the end of the day, I've got to be me. The game plan changes a little bit, you've got to fight certain ways, but I can't completely change what sort of fighter I am."

Whittaker's view on his title chance also speaks volumes about his focus and ambition.

He doesn't want to just be remembered as a UFC champion, but as one of MMA's greatest ever fighters.

"This fight with Yoel Romero isn't just about the UFC gold. It's about fighting Yoel Romero. I want to fight Yoel Romero," Whittaker said.

"Obviously I want things to fit into my agenda. I want that belt as well for other opportunities but Yoel Romero was always on my hit list, trust me. So are a bunch of other dudes.

"I want to set that legacy up. I want to be the best there ever was and I think I'm on a good track there.

"If you want to be the best fighter in the world, you don't need a strap for that, you need to beat all the best fighters in the world and that's what I'm going to do."

Topics:  robert whittaker ufc

News Corp Australia