Robert Whittaker’s Nicknames: ‘The Reaper’ & ‘Bobby Knuckles’ – Meaning and Story Behind the Former UFC Champion’s Monikers

Published 02/16/2024, 11:36 PM EST

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Robert Whittaker is set to clash against Paulo Costa in a middleweight spectacle at UFC 298. The Australian aims to bounce back from his loss against newly crowned middleweight champion, Dricus Du Plessis, which occurred at UFC 290 in 2023. Meanwhile, Costa will be making his return to the Octagon after a long hiatus since he secured a win against Luke Rockhold at UFC 278 in 2022.

Whittaker, a former middleweight champion, is known by the fans for his humble personality contrasted with his killer instinct inside the cage. He holds notable victories over names like Yoel Romero, Kelvin Gastelum, and Jared Cannonier. And ahead of his fight at UFC 298, let’s explore what we know about the origins behind his monikers, ‘The Reaper’ and ‘Bobby Knuckles’!

The meaning and origins of Robert Whittaker’s nickname ‘The Reaper’


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Robert Whittaker was born in New Zealand and his family moved to Australia shortly after. He made his way into the UFC through the ‘The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes’ series which saw him come out on top and win a place in the UFC!

In a past interview with Maxim Australia, Whittaker was asked about the origins behind his nicknames. He revealed, “The fans (or commentators) gave me Bobby Knuckles and I chose The Reaper. There is no real story behind The Reaper other than I like it. Either nickname is fine with me”

‘The Reaper’ refers to the ‘Grim Reaper’, which is considered a personification of death and is thought of as a mythological figure. However, Whittaker’s skills inside the cage highlight the aptness of the nickname as he has sent many opponents to the ‘shadow realm’ with his patented 1-2-high kick combo!

When did fans start calling Robert Whittaker ‘Bobby Knuckles’?

‘The Reaper’ isn’t the only moniker Whittaker is known by as he has been bestowed another nickname by the fans! Ahead of his clash with Kelvin Gastelum in 2021, the US fans dubbed him ‘Bobby Knuckles’ to showcase their support for the Australian.

The popularity of the nickname became evident with Whittaker’s merchandise sales before the fight skyrocketing but the fighter and UFC CEO Dana White weren’t pleased with the change in aliases. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, White stated, “I mean, what is Bobby Knuckles even about? You hear The Reaper and you don’t wanna fight that guy. But, Bobby Knuckles … yeah, I’ll take a f**ing shot at Bobby Knuckles.”


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And Whittaker agreed with the UFC boss’s sentiments as he revealed, “You tell people you don’t wanna be called something …”, indicating his affinity for his previous moniker rather than the ones the fans have chosen for him!

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As Whittaker prepares for his showdown with Costa at UFC 298, his dedication to his craft and preference for ‘The Reaper’ highlight his commitment to staying true to himself in the face of external pressures. Come fight night, fans will be hoping the former UFC middleweight champion takes the opportunity to remind the MMA world why ‘The Reaper’ is still a formidable foe for any opponent in the division! 


Written by:

Dushyant Patni


One take at a time

Dushyant Patni is a UFC writer at EssentiallySports. Dushyant brings 8 years of professional writing experience to his coverage of MMA at ES. This literature graduate excels in the coverage of both MMA-related and off-topic subjects.
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Edited by:

Joyita Das