2022 PFL champ Rob Wilkinson feels underappreciated: ‘UFC fighters for whatever reason get put on a pedestal’

Rob Wilkinson wants to prove he’s among the best in the world, and he feels he can do just that in his next outing.

The 2022 PFL light heavyweight champion returns to the cage April 1 in the co-main event of 2023 PFL 1 in Las Vegas. Wilkinson (17-2 MMA) welcomes former UFC title challenger Thiago Santos to the PFL. The Australian sees this as a great opportunity to prove his worth in the MMA landscape.

“He’s been fighting the top guys in the UFC forever now,” Wilkinson told MMA Junkie Radio. “His last fight was against the now current UFC champion, Jamahal Hil. So I think that going out there and making a statement and making it look easy in a sense, having a better performance than all these guys in the UFC had against him, I think that really goes to show that there are a lot of fighters, not only in the UFC. We’re seeing this time and time again – UFC fighters leaving to PFL thinking they can have good fights and make a quick million dollars, and that’s not been the case at all. I’m looking forward to Thiago.”

Wilkinson feels underappreciated by the masses. Now on a six-fight winning streak, and with his last loss being to Israel Adesanya in 2018, Wilkinson feels he should be regarded as one of the best light heavyweights in the world.

He thinks that the label of the UFC unfairly overshadows those doing good work outside the octagon.

“I definitely want that respect,” Wilkinson explained. “I saw some of those world rankings, you know, how low I’m in some of those rankings. I think UFC fighters for whatever reason get put on a pedestal above all other promotions. I’m a world champion of what? One of four major promotions and I definitely consider myself top 10, and I want to prove I’m the best light heavyweight in the world. So that’s why I’m excited for this fight.”


Rob Wilkinson def. Omari Akhmedov at 2022 PFL Championships: Best Photos

Regardless of whether he gets the credit, he feels he deserves or not, Wilkinson sees the Santos matchup as something beyond an opportunity to prove his skills to the world. Wilkinson considers Santos to be the toughest challenge in the PFL light heavyweight season. Taking the Brazilian out will send a message to the rest of the competitors.

“I think this fight, it almost feels like a bigger fight than the final last year,” Wilkinson said. “It’s a big name and probably the toughest guy in the tournament to verse for myself.

“I think it’s going to be exciting to go out there and make a statement and get a finish, and kind of really show that … I want no one to want to fight me. I want them if they get matched up with me to be like, ‘F*ck.’ I want to make a statement with Thiago and make everyone scared to fight me.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie