Sometimes, as fans of the sport, we will watch an event and cringe as a fighter displays some form of cockiness during their fight. Often it will backfire—see Anderson Silva’s latest defeat as a perfect example of this—and sometimes it will pay off.

Confidence is the key in winning any fight. It’s no secret. You can’t train confidence in the gym, you can’t buy it with your fight earnings and you can’t have it gifted to you. For 22-year-old Robert Whittaker, that confidence took him to great heights in his first foray into the Octagon since winning The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes.

Whittaker (Facebook/Robert Whittaker)

“There was a lot of relief for me after the fight, and on paper it was a pretty hard debut for me,” Whittaker admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “A lot of people thought that I would struggle with the wrestling and that Aussies can’t hold their own with it, but I showed them what we can do against wrestlers.”

Whittaker’s next test in the Octagon comes at the hands of The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner Court McGee in yet another match-up of The Ultimate Fighter champions, as it has been touted by some.

“I try not to get into that stuff too much,” Whittaker said. “I am just there to fight, and I will fight anybody that they put in front of me. I just want to get in there and get the job done.”

A training camp can say a lot about a fighter. Whittaker worked hard on nullifying Colton Smith’s wrestling in his last bout, and whilst his preparation should ideally be the same for his next bout, he realizes that no two fights are ever going to be the same.

“Fighting is a personal thing, so even though he might be a wrestler there are still different things that we will be working on,” he admitted. “With my last fight, my training did its job. We worked hard on how we would work around the wrestling, and being at Tristar certainly helped. For this one, I started off my camp at PMA in Sydney and then finished things off in Montreal.”

Spending a lot of his time on the other side of the globe has helped Whittaker step up his training to a whole new level. With the elite training comes his own sacrifice that he knows goes hand-in-hand with being a professional fighter.

“Being away from family is one of the hardest parts,” he admitted. “If you aren’t ready to go through the hardships of the sport, though, you aren’t going to make it. Although it can be tough sometimes, on the other hand it’s also good to get away and just have a one-track mind set on what needs to be done.

“By the time I walk into the fight, I already know what is going to happen in the cage and my training with Tristar really helps me cram so much in with such a short time. It’s good training there because there isn’t as much jetlag when I fly out for the actual fight.”

Whittaker (Chez Watts/MMA Weekly)

With the familiar situation in front of him of facing a high-level wrestler, Whittaker once again gets to answer the question that everybody asked in his last fight. It begs a new question, however, in how many wrestlers Whittaker will need to dismantle for people to believe he can compete with the world’s best fighters.

“It doesn’t really bother me too much that he’s a good wrestler,” Whittaker said. “I am sure he’s going to try the takedown right away or when he works out that he can’t out-strike me, but when he realizes that it’s not going to work it’ll probably just turn into a brawl [laughs]. I am always up for a brawl, so I’m looking forward to it. I have a lot of respect for Court, so I am really excited for this fight.”

With the infamous Octagon jitters well and truly gone for Whittaker, it will remain to be seen just how well he fares in his step up in competition for UFC Fight Night 27. Whether the same fight-winning tactics from his last fight are employed in his upcoming bout or not, the same confidence will be displayed. That is a key to victory that almost all fighters claim to carry, but only some really know how to use.

Robert would like to thank Training Mask, Fund A Fighter, Body Science, Tapout, Booster Fight Gear and MMA Apparel, as well as his family and all of his training partners and coaches at PMA and Tristar. Follow Whittaker on Twitter: @RJWhittaker1990

Top Photo: Robert Whittaker (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)