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Revealed: Dana’s secret gift as Whittaker jets to Fight Island

Robert Whittaker is readying to win big on Abu Dhabi’s UFC Fight Island, only days after another Australian received a secret monetary bonus from Dana White.While Whittaker jets off for UFC 254 on Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph can reveal Sydney featherweight Josh Culibao had returned home from Fight Island with his fight purse doubled by…

Robert Whittaker is readying to win big on Abu Dhabi’s UFC Fight Island, only days after another Australian received a secret monetary bonus from Dana White.

While Whittaker jets off for UFC 254 on Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph can reveal Sydney featherweight Josh Culibao had returned home from Fight Island with his fight purse doubled by the UFC president.

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It comes after Culibao, who appeared on the undercard of Fight Island 4 earlier this month, earned a controversial split decision draw against Charles Jourdain.

Incredibly, one judge scored all three rounds for Canadian Jourdain, despite the Aussie dropping him and likely breaking his nose in the opening round.

Now back home quarantining in Sydney, 26-year-old Culibao revealed White had approached him only minutes after the fight “to say I’d also be getting my win bonus”.


Whittaker, meanwhile, invited The Daily Telegraph inside his final weekend of training before jetting out to face American Jared Cannonier at UFC 254.

Australia’s first UFC champ completed a series of tough workouts before undertaking COVID testing and entering quarantine before his flight to Abu Dhabi.

If Whittaker beats Cannonier on October 25, he will earn a shot at reclaiming the UFC middleweight title from the man who dethroned him — New Zealander superstar Israel Adesanya.

While the former champ wasn’t willing to discuss a possible Adesanya rematch – “haven’t even given it a thought” — he was happy to outline his plans for Cannonier.

Asked how the Texas native would handle his famed blitzes, Whittaker replied: “He’s tough and will likely try to leg chop me, try to slow me down.

“He’ll try to engage, throw his heavy hands and try to catch me.

“But you saw today (in training), I’m going to be too quick for him.

“Of course, Jared is a very tough guy.

“He has a dangerous set of skills and I’m going to give him that respect.

“And I look forward to having an honourable fight.

“He’s tough, hits hard and has a well-rounded skill set.

“But I’m going to play around it. Play to my skill set.

“I’m going to be too much for him.”

Culibao, meanwhile, said there was “no way” he lost a fight that was also scored 29-28 in his favour by a second judge and 28-all by a third.

Quizzed on the first round, he said: “I don’t know how you break a guy’s nose, drop him, cause the most damage, almost finish the fight – and I still lose the round.

“I don’t understand it.

“I honestly don’t know if the judge has any experience at all. Don’t understand how they get their job.

“But while I’m dirty I didn’t get the ‘w’, I still showed people that I’m not just here in the UFC as a number.”

The fighter added he was grateful to receive the win bonus from White.

“Dana said he was paying my win bonus as well as my show money,” Culibao said. “He said the judges were all over the place and didn’t know what they were doing.”

Inside story: The Aussie UFC star who lives in a van

Jimmy Crute sleeps in a car park because the other guy has always been better.

Or at least, this is his fear.

Which isn’t easy to talk about.

So he hasn’t.

Instead, through five years and 12 professional fights, this rising Australian light heavyweight – and now, breakout UFC prospect – has fought those darkest of doubts by training up to three times a day, seven days a week.

Which as it sounds, is almost impossible.

Unless, of course, you start sleeping on the couch at your gym.

Which Crute did – for 18 months.

That dodgy office sofa then eventually replaced this year by a van – “complete with running water and power,” he says – which now boasts permanent lodging behind the 24-year-old’s Melbourne gym.

Yet most importantly?

Crute has started talking.

“Because finally,” he says, “I don’t give a f— what people think”.

Undoubtedly Australia’s most exciting UFC prospect, Crute (11-1) is currently on Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island, preparing for what shapes as his fourth Octagon win against Lithuanian Modestas Bukauskas on Sunday, October 18.

More than being the biggest fight of his career, the showdown also doubles as the first time Crute will enter the cage convinced he can win.

“Which isn’t easy to talk about,” he admits.

But if you want to know why Crute sleeps in that van behind his gym, he must discuss the doubts.

“Always been bad,” he concedes.

“My entire career, I can recall twice thinking I’d win. The other times, I just went out there.

“Which is … it’s hard to explain … but it got to a point where I’d even be watching street fights on the internet, thinking ‘you’d struggle with that guy’.

“I was in the UFC, a world class fighter, and still didn’t trust my ability against a guy on the street.”

Worse, he was over analysing opponents.

Continually rewatching their strongest attributes until said rivals appeared better than they were.

So to compensate, Crute trained.

“And trained until I couldn’t move,” he says.

“Forever in the gym trying to make up for that perceived lack of talent.”

Which is why, eventually, he stopped going home.

“First, sleeping on a couch,” he says.

“Then this year, I got the van.

“But my schedule, it was stupid.

“I can’t remember a fight where I haven’t overtrained. Or haven’t been sick because of overtraining.

“I was even working out with Cross Fit guys – professionals – and thinking of their schedules, ‘f—, you don’t really train much’.

“I was doing seven extra sessions on top of even them.”

Yet it was also during this crazy time that Crute met Tom Frost, a High Performance manager working not out of the fight gym where he slept, but a second gym he was attending for extra workouts.

“So we started talking,” Crute says.

“Together, working on goals, reasons for fighting, all the boring shit people don’t want to hear about.


“But personally, it’s helped — a lot.

“For the first time, I’m believing in myself.”

But as for being cured?

“No, it’s a forever process,” Crute insists.

“Positive thinking, it’s a habit. You can’t just flick a switch.

“But I am at a point now where, when I do start doubting, I can snap out of it.

“It’s why what you’ve seen from me so far, it’s nothing.

“A piss in the ocean.

“Because finally, I believe I can beat anyone.”

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