Dricus du Plessis said he was “glad” that his heated faceoff with Israel Adesanya took place at UFC 290, and stated that the face-to-face confrontation has only convinced him further that he will dethrone “The Last Stylebender” and become the UFC middleweight champion.
Du Plessis claimed the biggest victory of his career at UFC 290 when he stopped Robert Whittaker, then went nose-to-nose with the reigning middleweight champion ahead of what promises to be a titanic title fight later this year.
The heated rivalry between the pair stemmed from du Plessis’s comments about being “the African fighter in the UFC.”
“Did those belts ever go to Africa? As far as I know, they came to America and New Zealand,” he told reporters during media day ahead of UFC 285 in March.
“I’m going to take a belt to Africa. I’m the African fighter in the UFC. Myself and Cameron (Saaiman), we breathe African air. We wake up in Africa every day. We train in Africa, we’re African born, we’re African raised, we still reside in Africa, we train out of Africa – that’s an African champion, and that’s who I’ll be.”
Those comments did not sit well with Nigerian-born Adesanya, who later vowed to defeat du Plessis and “drag his carcass across South Africa.”
It meant that tensions were high as Adesanya entered the cage following Du Plessis’s impressive TKO finish of Robert Whittaker at UFC 290, and the resulting faceoff saw a clearly incensed Adesanya hurl insults at du Plessis, who kept his composure before turning away to celebrate his victory with his team.
Speaking to BT Sport backstage after the event, du Plessis explained that there was no pre-agreed plan for the faceoff to take place, but he was glad that the exchange happened.
“I remember sitting on the cage and I told them to come in,” he said.
“And, you know, you don’t see the champion coming in a lot of times when a contender wins, but guess the roles are already reversed because I’m the champion. That’s how it is.”
Adesanya’s tirade at du Plessis was deemed by some to have crossed the line, but Du Plessis said that Adesanya’s anger is no issue of his.
“Not at all. For me, this is business and you can use all the fuel he needs,” he said.
“There’s not enough fuel in the world for him to beat me.
“The only thing he needed to do was just put on gloves. I was ready to go for another round. We could have done it, right there and then. (With) all the adrenaline, I wouldn’t feel anything. I would have been ready right then. But I’m glad he got off his seat. I’m glad he got in close and personal, because now he knows, and I could see how little of a man he is. I could feel it in there.
“I’m glad he got in there, because now I’ve been in between those eight sides with him, and I can already see it in my mind. I know how it looks in that cage, and I know I’m going to knock him out, just like I knocked out Robert Whittaker.”
Du Plessis also explained how much it meant to him to compete with, and defeat, a fighter like Whittaker.
“(It means) Absolutely everything, you know? One of the best to ever compete in the sport, Robert Whittaker. If Israel Adesanya didn’t have his number, he would have been a champion for over a decade right now, nobody in the past decade has been able to beat Robert Whittaker.
“But, you know, the champion had his number. And for me tonight, as a personal goal, as a fan of the sport, as a warrior, as a martial artist, this means the absolute world. And it was an incredible honor to share the cage with Whittaker, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Du Plessis’s victory over Whittaker and the resulting faceoff with Adesanya all but confirms that the South African contender will face “The Last Stylebender” for the middleweight title in his next matchup.
The UFC are likely to be keen for the bout to take place as the main event of UFC 293, which is set for September 9 in Sydney, Australia. That would mean a quick turnaround for du Plessis, and an almost immediate return to training camp to prepare for the biggest fight of his career. But, as he explained, he will only sign to fight for the title if he and his team know that the time is right to do so.
“There’s a lot of smarter people than me that’s gonna look at me. My team, (my) doctors, my coaches,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I’m a fighter. What I do is fight. And, if my team says we’re ready, obviously training for it just coming off this camp, it’s kinda unfair, I guess. But I don’t care. More odds have been stacked against me. I don’t care. (I’ll) take my opportunity.
“I am undoubtedly the number-one contender in the world right now. So, if I decide to wait, I’ll decide to wait, and there’s nothing that the champion can do about it.”