On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
During preparations for UFC 243, when Robert Whittaker was looking to unify the UFC middleweight title against undefeated interim champion Israel Adesanya, the champion had one thing on his mind: smashing dumplings.
“I’m keen to try this hectic dumpling place in Melbourne,” he told Men’s Fitness. “To be honest, whether I win or lose, I’ll be there smashing dumplings”
Whittaker ultimately lost the bout when Adesanya knocked him out in the second round, but has recently bounced back with a hard-fought decision win over rising middleweight contender Darren Till.
Everything I do is for the success of my family. I’m not one of those people who’s driven by fame. Everything I need, I have. It’s now about me fighting to keep what I have and to make what I have better – that will make my family prosperous. It’s this that drives me.Rob Whittaker is Hungry for the Fight | Men’s Fitness
The first Australian and first New Zealand-born fighter to hold a UFC title, approaches his daily training routine with a blue-collar, 9-to-5 mentality: clock in, get shit done, clock out, go relax, play video games and spend time with the family — Whittaker and his wife, Sofia, have three kids, John, Jack, and Lilliana.
On a typical workday, Whittaker is at the gym at 9am, working on strength & conditioning, boxing and grappling, in back-to-back sessions. Unlike most UFC fighters who have structured training camps sprinkled through the year, Whittaker and his team maintain a consistent training regime, with changes made when they have a fight on the horizon. “For example, we might have a high cardio block and a high sparring block and that’s managed by my performance coach,” he told Men’s Fitness.
Whittaker has been working with his performance coach, Fabricio Itte, for the past few years and is a key factor to the former champion’s professional approach to mixed martial arts, “He’s shown me how to treat training and fighting as a job,” Whittaker told Men’s Health. “He’s introduced me to the science behind being an elite athlete. He’s taught me that my body is a property.”
The UFC fighter also trains with exercise physiologist Justin Lang at Live Athletic, based in Sydney, where they work on gymnastics and barbell training, with a goal to increase both strength and flexibility. Lang typically has Whittaker run through a series of movements, including, squat, pistol squat, nordic hamstring curl, weighted dips, back extensions and hollow rocks.
To keep track of their progress, Whittaker and his team use Excel spreadsheets to monitor every aspect of the former champion’s lifestyle, including training volume, diet, recovery, and heart rate. “It allows us to have written evidence on how we’ve been in previous [fight] camps, how I’ve felt with previous training,” Whittaker told CNET. “It allows us to take a scientific approach to workloads and exertion levels and whatnot.”
When it comes to his diet, Whittaker leaves it up Sofia:
My wife cooks for me, which is great. I try to eat well and I follow the “everything in moderation” rule. I eat greens every day, I avoid fast foods and sugar. As the fights get closer and I need to lose a couple of kilos, I start to clean up my diet and so I avoid things like breads and eat foods closer to the source like potatoes and rice. I also try to clean up the meat, so I’ll shift to white meat, fish and up my grain intake. I follow the 80/20 rule, and I’m not going to say I won’t eat a chocolate bar now and then.ROB WHITTAKER IS HUNGRY FOR THE FIGHT | MEN’S FITNESS
After training is done at 5pm, Whittaker will head home to spend his evenings with his family, “I have dinner with them, I put the boys to sleep and I can relax a little bit.”
He’s also a big video gamer, streaming live on Twitch with League of Legends and The Elder Scrolls, to destress from training, “It’s definitely a reason I game so much: to forget about the pressures of fighting and the hardships of training and everything,” he told CNET.
I want to play my games because I’m tired, I’m exhausted. The stresses have built and I’m so tired from everything. My calories have dropped. The training is so hard. This fight is around the corner and I’m about to leave. Everything’s on me, plus all the other things like the gym and everything is still going on, life is still going on and I just want to sit down and brain out on a game and just unwind.INTERVIEW: ROBERT WHITTAKER – THE FIGHTER, FAMILY MAN AND GAMER | MAN OF MANY
Whittaker’s gruelling training regimen, coupled with the fact that he had been training seven days a week since late 2014, ultimately led to him burning out in December last year. It was Christmas day when halfway up a Cronulla sand dune, he quit running, “I just stopped. Then stood there, asking ‘what the fuck am I doing?” he told The Chronicle.
“I’ve got kids and they want my attention and I want to give them attention, but I’m so tired and just juggling that, and then I’ll have a wife that needs attention too,” he explained in a Man of Many interview. “Just trying to make it all work. And my friends, unfortunately, get seat number five. It’s just a juggling act. I have to give every one of those aspects sometime, otherwise, I start to fray at the edges.”
The burnout led to Whittaker withdrawing from a planned bout against Jared Cannonier at UFC 248, and disappearing for a few weeks to spend time with his family. It also led to unfounded rumours floating online about Whittaker donating bone marrow to his daughter; rumours that he quickly put to rest, “they are fine. It was me who had the issue.”
The hiatus was good for Whittaker, giving him time to reflect and regroup, physically and mentally. During the lead up to his July comeback fight against Till, refreshed from his break and free from the pressures of defending a title, Whittaker was relaxed and learning to enjoy the moment.
“The next Rob that steps in the Octagon will be the happiest Rob, there’s no doubt about that,” Whittaker told GQ. “I’m enjoying the process. I’m enjoying waking up every day. I struggle to sleep sometimes because I’m so excited for what the next day brings. I’m in a funny place, but I’m really enjoying it all.”
It’s just one fight at a time sort of thing. I’m enjoying myself with that sort of plan. Just taking every fighter as they come, enjoying the process, enjoying the journey because with fighting you never know what’s going to happen. You can have everything in your toolbelt and you just rock up and it’s just not your night. And that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes.INTERVIEW: Robert Whittaker – The Fighter, Family Man and Gamer | Man of Many
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