Robert Whittaker respects Dricus Du Plessis’ willingness to fight him at UFC 290.

Whittaker (24-6 MMA, 15-4 UFC) takes on Du Plessis (19-2 MMA, 5-0 UFC) at UFC 290 on July 8 from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Du Plessis is unbeaten in the UFC, a fresh face for middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, and has already created a storyline with “The Last Stylebender” to get his opportunity at gold. Du Plessis has admitted that taking the Whittaker fight wasn’t the smart choice, but he wants to cement himself as No. 1 contender.

“I think I read somewhere that he actually commented on that and saying, ‘I’m not here to do the smart thing, I’m here to fight,’” Whittaker said on his MMArcade Podcast. “That’s why I am so happy with this fight because, like, I will respect that and give you a fight with everything that I have. That is the game for me. That is the craft. That is fulfilling to me in my warrior spirit.”

Many, including Adesanya, don’t rate Du Plessis’ chances too high against Whittaker, but the former champion is excited for the challenge and knows he’ll be getting a game Du Plessis.

“From everything I’ve seen with Dricus, he seems like a straight-up fella,” Whittaker said. “He seems like a warrior. He’s got like a good warrior and honorable spirit about him. That really excites me. It excites me to have an opponent like that, an opponent that sees the craft for what it is for, sees what we are getting ourselves into, staring across the octagon together in the floor space of the arena. Knowing he’s like that just gave me electric tingles. I love it.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 290.

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