ROBERT Whittaker was ready to fight somebody as he stood backstage at Madison Square Garden after UFC 217.
One of the most epic nights in UFC history will do that to a fighter - especially one that is next in line for a shot at the belt that passed from Michael Bisping to Georges St Pierre in the main event.
Whether he gets to fight against the Canadian icon he grew up idolising remains to be seen, especially given St Pierre's confusing answer in his post-fight interview when he was asked if he planned to stay at middleweight.
Whittaker was all respect as he greeted St Pierre as the new champ walked to his changeroom. They shared a handshake and a quick embrace and as the returning legend departed to celebrate his triumph, Whittaker couldn't help saying: "Man, I hope I don't have to fight him. I just like him so much."
But that's because he doesn't want to have to beat up his hero - not because he's afraid to stand toe to toe with him.
Moments before greeting GSP, Whittaker told Australian media his interpretation of St Pierre's comments were that he wasn't planning to hang around at 185 pounds.
"He did not sound like he was happy to do that," Whittaker said.
"That ending was unreal. I was on my feet … but I got no closure from that fight. I'm still waiting. I'm kind of (pumped) up at the moment, I just want to get home and get back to work."
Whittaker, a 26-year-old former bricklayer who chose MMA over rugby league and became the division's interim champion earlier this year, would still consider it an honour to face 36-year-old St Pierre.
"I can't even put it into words," Whittaker said. "I was a massive fan of him when I was younger - and when I was at welterweight as well. Every welterweight in the world aspired to become something like him. If I got the privilege of fighting him? Man, dream come true."
But he's supremely confident of victory, offering a brutally honest assessment of St Pierre's performance after a four-year lay-off.
"To be honest, he looked slower than he's ever been," Whittaker said. "He's just as crafty. You can see the intelligence is still there. His fight IQ is still there. He obviously hits harder at middleweight. But I hit hard and I hit fast - and much harder and faster than Bisping. And I have much better defence than Bisping. So it looks good."
It would be a neat fit to have Whittaker headline UFC 221 in Perth in February but if it means a shot at GSP, Whittaker is happy to bypass the pay-per-view card on home soil.
"I'm happy to wait," he said. "Fighting a legend like that is worth the time. My wants have to go on the back seat a bit for him. He's a living legend and in respect I'll do that. But if he's going to hang around at middleweight we'll touch gloves eventually. I'm confident."
If St Pierre changes course, Whittaker could face the next highest ranked man in the division, currently former champ Luke Rockhold. But it's all maybes at this point.
"If Georges steps down it makes everyone a potential opponent," he said.
The Aussie had predicted a Bisping win leading up to the fight, but the Englishman's loss likely means they'll never get the chance to square off. Whittaker encouraged Bisping to retire.
"He could (keep fighting). But for him and his family's sake, I hope he doesn't," Whittaker said. "Man, you've done enough. You know what I mean? You've gone to the highest level of the sport and back. And you've fought more than everyone. Dude, just enjoy it. But he's a good fighter, he can do what he wants."
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