Former UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker has broken his silence regarding his recent absence from the sport.
"I was completely burnt out," Whittaker, who in January withdrew from a March bout against Jared Cannonier at UFC 248, told The Daily Telegraph's Nick Walshaw.
Whittaker, who lost the title to Israel Adesanya via second-round TKO last October, has trained seven days a week for the better part of his eight years in the UFC. He said he's missed birthdays, weddings, and funerals as a result of his schedule, and he realized while working out at the Wanda dunes in Sydney, Australia last December that it's taken too much of a toll.
"I just stopped," Whittaker said, "then stood there, asking, 'What the f--- am I doing?' It was Christmas Day. My family was somewhere else. That moment, it's when everything crashed."
Whittaker said he then knew what he was doing wasn't "normal" and told his team that everything was on pause until he figured out "how to stop feeling this way."
The 29-year-old said he adopted such a rigorous training schedule when he moved up to the middleweight division in 2014. It led to him winning eight fights in a row and capturing UFC gold in 2017.
"I sacrificed everything," Whittaker said. "My team suggested several plans which I took to. And because it worked, I just kept at it. But you can't keep doing that forever. You just can't."
"The Reaper" said he started having doubts around June 2018 following his rematch with Yoel Romero, which Whittaker won by split decision. But he didn't tell anyone.
"As soon as one fight is over, you have another title fight on the way," Whittaker said. "So, the negative thoughts, you block them out."
Now that he's reduced his training, Whittaker said he's happy he can spend more time with his wife and three kids. He did not give a timetable for his potential return to the Octagon.
"The changes I've made, it really will change my life," he said. "Not training to exhaustion every day, I guess you can say I'm living."