Uriah Hall expects Robert Whittaker injury, volunteers for Israel Adesanya at UFC 243

VANCOUVER – Uriah Hall doesn’t have a lot of faith that middleweight champ Robert Whittaker will show up for UFC 243.

If Whittaker drops out of a title unifier against interim champ Israel Adesanya, Hall would like nothing more than to play backup.

“I would love to fight that dude,” Hall told MMA Junkie in advance of his fight against Antonio Carlos Junior at UFC on ESPN+ 16, which takes place Saturday at Rogers Arena. “If someone gets hurt – we know Robert’s going to get hurt – I’ll be on deck. I’ll be like, ‘Hey man, let’s crack.’”

Hall uses those words with respect for Adesnanya, if not Whittaker. He’s long been a fan of the interim middleweight champion and would like to test his skills in a showdown of creative strikers: Two strikers who also happen to love anime and regularly channel their illustrated heroes in the cage.

“It’s not even to say, ‘Screw you, man,’” – I think Israel is definitely one of the best,” Hall said. “He paid his dues, he got there really quick, he got there really amicably – there’s nothing bad to say about the kid. He’s a stud.

“I’m just excited because I feel like it’s an anime thing going on between us. I’m Dragon Ball Z, he’s Naruto. So we’ve got to have that classic matchup. We understand each other’s style. I understand his style. I just want to test myself against the best.”

Currently, there’s no indication Whittaker won’t be able to defend his title. In fact, the promotion is banking on the champ’s attendance after reportedly selling over 40,000 tickets for the Oct. 6 pay-per-view at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia, per UFC president Dana White.

Still, Whittaker has been forced to withdraw from several high-profile fights, most recently a title defense against Kelvin Gastelum just hours before UFC 234.

A skeptical Hall is newly confident in his chances at middleweight after a trip to Dallas led him to Fortis MMA under head coach Sayif Saud, who revamped “The Ultimate Fighter 17” semifinalist’s training.

Years of training at top MMA gyms boosted Hall’s skills – and also left injuries that sapped his confidence in the cage. Hall said Saud brought new ideas to the table that helped him strengthen his weak areas. New training partners pushed him without threatening to break something.

“I didn’t feel like anyone was trying to kill me,” he said. “You go to another gym, it’s like, ‘Oh, Uriah Hall. Let’s get this mother…’ With that environment, you do have that. But it’s not like I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you so we can grow. It’s a good kill.”

Hall said he’s friendly with Junior, despite a claim to the contrary from the Brazilian’s manager. He said there’s nothing personal about the matchup; it’s a competition between two veterans looking to advance their careers. He’s convinced he hasn’t always gone about that the right way.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to play the politics card – you’ve got to fight this guy, this guy, this guy,” Hall said. “Me, I was like, ‘I’ll fight anybody’ – but not realizing there’s strategic ways to get there. Look at Tony Ferguson. How long was that dude due to fight for the championship. It’s like, c’mon – we all know the B.S. is happening.”

At 35, Hall has seen ups and downs as he’s fought through the ranks. No longer content with milling around in the middle of the pack, he figures it’s time to stand up and ask for what he wants.

Right now, that’s a shot at Adesanya.

“I have a legacy to live out and finish, and I feel like I barely started,” Hall said. “I messed around. And when I say messed around, I wasn’t serious. I lost that hunger, that drive, that must, because I replaced it with a want.

“You look at something, and you’ve got to understand, do I want that, or do I need that? So I feel like that’s how I run my life. I must get this, because we’re not getting any younger in the sport. Five years from now, I’ll be what, older? So how can I capitalize on this prime? I have an amazing platform, so why not milk the (expletive) out of this.”

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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