Dricus du Plessis is ready to settle this feud with Israel Adesanya.
At UFC 287, Adesanya reclaimed the middleweight title with a spectacular second round knockout of his longtime rival Alex Pereira. It was a triumphant moment for Adesanya, who in the aftermath laid the foundation for a future challenge when he, despite refusing to mention du Plessis by name, threatened to “drag his carcass across South Africa,” if he continued to win fights.
Of course, du Plessis is happy to give him the chance.
“For him saying that, does he think I’m scared of him?” du Plessis said on The MMA Hour. “I am not scared of that man? The fact that he put some threats out there, obviously he’s forgotten, because I don’t take kindly to threats. Over here, it doesn’t work like that. If you want to make threats, come and show me. Come and show me how you drag my carcass around. I would love to see you try.
“And like I said in that message: UFC Africa is far away from being done. It’s probably going to happen next year. I don’t want to wait that long. I will beat him this year, and after that fight, if he still feels like he has all this power over me and he’s trying to intimidate me, that’s good. Then come to Africa next year, and we’ll fight for the belt in a rematch where I’m the champion. Because that fight’s not happening this year, and he does not scare me. Not one little bit.”
The animus Adesanya has for du Plessis stems from comments the South African fighter previously made about being “an African champion,” saying that he lives and trains in Africa while other African-born champions like Adesanya and Kamaru Usman do not.
Adesanya, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and lived in Ghana before immigrating to New Zealand at 10, did not take kindly to this assessment of his nationality, nor did Usman. But du Plessis argues everything was blown out of proportion.
“Immediately they went to, ‘Dricus said he’s more African than Kamaru Usman and the African-born champion,’” du Plessis said. “I never said those words. Not even close to. I simply stated the fact that I am the only — if I’m wrong, I will say sorry immediately. Do one of them reside in Africa? I did not even mention this toward them. I did not talk about them, I talked about myself. I was not aiming anything at them, I was aiming something at myself. That I will be the first champion that resides in Africa, that will take his belt home to Africa.
“I never said they weren’t African, or I was more African. Of course they’re African, and I respect them a whole lot. Usman is one of the greatest to ever do it. Adesanya is one of the greatest middleweights to ever walk this Earth. I never took anything away from them, in that aspect. The only thing I said is I’m still residing in Africa, and I will bring my belt back home, to Africa, which is where I reside. If we are sending out post codes and addresses, mine’s going to be in Africa, and that’s the facts of the matter.
“To bring color into it is, for me, the most ridiculous thing ever,” du Plessis continued. “That is the one thing from this whole thing that really pisses me off, to be honest. That color was brought into it. I’ve never even mentioned color, because it makes absolutely no difference to me, and to every single person I know, it makes absolutely no difference to. Color is not the topic at discussion. If anybody is bringing in color, bringing in the fact that I’m white or they are black, or any form of race anyway, to me, that is absolutely ridiculous. This is a sport. This is fighting. Once you get into a sport, once we get into fighting, sport as a whole brings people together. There’s no place for race and mentioning of color, at all. That really pisses me off. I never said those words. I only stated that I’m the one residing in Africa, and all of a sudden it became this racial thing. And that is absolutely disgusting, if I’m being honest. I don’t see any need for that in the sport, or in any sport, for that matter.”
Like it or not, that story and promotional angle is out there, and should the two get matched up, the UFC will likely lean heavily into the bad blood of the fight. But du Plessis is not concerned about that, only about winning the middleweight title.
“I don’t care about anything else,” du Plessis said. “For me, it’s about getting that belt and bringing it home. Whether he is African — of course he’s African! He was born in Nigeria. But does he reside in Africa? No, he doesn’t. So I was simply stating a fact. Did he ever train in Nigeria? Did he train in Africa? No, he didn’t. Do I train in Africa? Yes, I do. So I’m not saying he’s not African, I am more African; I’m simply saying I want to make history by being the first African-residing champion.
“I think people are making this an issue that is not there. This is, purely, two guys fighting. This is me vs. Israel Adesanya. For me, there is no, ‘I’m more African, you’re more African.’ I reside in Africa. He doesn’t. That is a fact. That is not my opinion. That is a fact. He’s African, his heritage is African, of course. But that does not change the fact that I want to be and will be the first African-residing champion.”
And du Plessis believes he will, in fact, get that opportunity next. While Adesanya insisted du Plessis needs to “show me something” to earn a title shot, the South African believes the UFC has other ideas.
“I think so,” du Plessis responded when asked if he’d get the next title shot. “Like I said, as a fighter, I have all the respect in the world for him. He has done amazing things. I think he might be one of, if not the greatest middleweights of all time. Obviously, competing with the great Anderson Silva, that’s a very hard case to make, but he’s an incredible fighter. ... But I’m the No. 1-ranked guy that he has not fought. Unless they are going to do a Whittaker 3, which I do not see happening, and they’re definitely not going to do a trilogy match [for Pereira], unless Adesanya decides to go up to light heavyweight again, I don’t see them doing that, so I’m the next guy for the belt. That’s the only thing that makes sense. I will be more than happy to accept that fight. I don’t see any other option.”
Du Plessis is currently recovering from surgery on his nose to repair a sinus issue that made breathing difficult. The South African fighter is targeting a return to late summer in either July or August, depending on the recovering timeline and the will of the UFC. While his preference is a title shot, if ultimately it doesn’t happen, he’s just as happy to do what Adesanya requested and make himself undeniable with another win.
“I answer to the UFC,” du Plessis said. “At the end of the day, if I beat them now, or I beat them when I win the belt, it doesn’t matter to me. To me it doesn’t make any difference. If they give me a No. 1 contender fight, that’s up to them, but I honestly believe they’re going to give me a title fight, and I want that title fight. But if they don’t, there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ll go out there, I’ll fight, I’ll win. I don’t say no to fights. I’ll go out there, do what I have to do, win another fight, and prove once again that I belong in that position.”