ICON: What does your daily routine look like? Is there a part of your training regimen that people can adopt at home?
Rob Whittaker: “Honestly, I take my career and what I do as just any other job. So I work 9 to 5, I get up at 8 and have breakfast, I leave the house by 8:30, I’m training the entire time and there are breaks where I can eat and I work until 5 and then I’m back home with my family just like any 9 to 5 job.”
How do you think gaming and the UFC go hand-in-hand? Is there anything you can apply from the digital world in to your strategy for a fight?
RW: “I think the biggest thing that gaming has an impact on the UFC or mixed-martial arts or athletes in general is that games can be used as an outlet, can be used as an escape to be able to leave the pressures fighting which as you can imagine is a lot of pressure and is quite intense. To be able to leave that behind, escape, unwind and don’t worry about if someone is going to take your head off or the pressure to have to win a fight or lose a fight. Mental health is important so to be able to just unwind and relax, it’s huge.”
Is that to do with the pressure you put on yourself now as a UFC fighter or it something you’ve grown up with?
RW: “I think it is something I’ve always had that I’ve just gotten through living. It is also just a part of me and a part of who I am, the sort of person I am, the sort of person who has extreme highs but also extreme lows. I’ve been able to identify and be able to see it before it happens, and I’m surrounded by great people, so I’m grateful I can manage it the way I have been.”
What goes through your mind when first stepping out into the ring?
RW: “There are a lot of nerves. By the time I step into the octagon the work is done, I’m not thinking about anything but getting the job done. It’s about focussing on my opponent, remembering everything I have been doing but honestly, the moment I step into the octagon it’s more of a rollercoaster… it all falls down to instinct and muscle memory that you’ve honed into your body and mind over the last eight months. The time for thinking is done.”
How young were you when you got into gaming?
RW: “It was my father who got me into gaming and he’s always been a big fan of gaming from the earliest age and since then I haven’t really stopped. My own kids are growing up with games, I just feel the positive vibe that comes from games. The motor skills, comprehension and things like that so I’m very pro games.
Too much of anything can become a problem and that’s gaming to training to working to anything. I think gaming has a lot of positives, a lot of benefits, especially with children such as problem solving at a young age. My own kids play video games, my son is playing video games and I can see the growth in him every single day when I watch him problem solve… But I do understand that’s too much of anything is a problem, if you become obsessed with games and start neglecting everything else can become problem like anything else.”
Currently, what is your favourite or go-to game in the Bethesda Softworks range?
RW: “At the moment my biggest crush I guess is Elder Scrolls online. It’s a way for me to escape reality in a sense but also hang out with my friends. I’m very social on it … so it’s great fun to be able to just escape daily pressures and grinds and just become a wizard for the day.”
You recently came up against Israel Adesanya and following the press conference admitted you were very disappointed with the outcome. How do you bounce back from that?
RW: “Obviously I’m very disappointed, I go home very disappointed and I feel down for the next couple of days but I understand also that the emotions that I’m feeling is almost like the weather and you have to ride it out. I’m kind to myself in a sense that I know that I’m supposed to feel this way and I know that it will pass so I just surround myself with my family, with good people. Fortunately PAX was the week after my fight so to be able to come to PAX and hang out with Bethesda and see all the stores and the booths and the trailers for the new games, it really helps me leave the scene, unwind a bit and get back to work on Monday.”
What do you love most about PAX?
RW: “The culture. PAX blows my mind with the culture of the scene and how everybody comes together, and everybody is just excited, no one is putting each other down, no one is trying to put it over each other, everybody is just genuinely happy to be there and the culture of the gaming industry has honestly touched my heart and just blown me away. I’m very grateful to be a part of it.
Can we expect an upcoming fight soon? Perhaps a rematch?
RW: “I’m always preparing for fight. Literally everyday I’m training for the next fight. I’m very disappointed with the result of the last fight so I’m going to get back to work, get back to training and beat the next fight. Always onwards.”