With a win over Robert Whittaker this Saturday at UFC 290, Du Plessis would improve to 6-0 in his UFC career and presumably become the No. 1 contender in the middleweight division. A championship bout between he and Adesanya seems tailor-made given the deeply personal war of words they’ve been involved in over recent months.
But first there’s the matter of beating Whittaker, a task that Du Plessis is treating with the utmost respect, whether or not it results in him challenging Adesanya at UFC 293 in Sydney, Australia, in September.
“This is my third fight in seven months, so I’ve been turning around and getting these fights in to climb this ladder,” Du Plessis said at UFC 290 media day. “If I’m physically capable, if there’s no problem for me to start my fight camp and be ready for that title fight, no problem at all, I’ll be ready.
“But I’m not even considering that when I get into the cage with Robert Whittaker. I’m willing to take a limb off and this be the last fight of my life to beat Robert Whittaker with that piece of limb. I’m not even thinking about this title fight right now, I’m thinking about Robert Whittaker, and I guess they’ll decide if I’m No. 1 contender or not.”
The timing of Adesanya’s next title defense has created a murky contender picture as it’s assumed that the New Zealand-based champion would want to defend his belt in neighboring Australia. Ahead of the Sept. 10 pay-per-view date, names like Du Plessis, Sean Strickland, and past title challenger Jared Cannonier have kept themselves in the mix, though the middleweight title challenger spot remains open.
An Adesanya vs. Du Plessis grudge match seemingly leads the UFC’s list of desirable matchups, but Du Plessis couldn’t care less if Adesanya is still at the top of the mountain once he earns his championship opportunity.
“We can literally sort out all of that, and at the end of the day, it’s not my call. It’s the UFC’s call,” Du Plessis said. “But there won’t be any denying me as the No. 1 contender after I beat Rob. But yeah, if that’s the way they want to do it, if it’s not possible for me physically to fight in Sydney, if there’s injury or if you get extremely bad cuts there’s no way, then you’re out for a couple, you never know what happens in this sport.
“Like I said, it doesn’t bother me. At the end of the day, I don’t want to fight Izzy. I want to fight the guy with the belt. Whether it’s Izzy, whether it’s Strickland, I don’t care. For me, it’s about fighting whoever has that title to become the champion.”
Whittaker remains a potential title challenger too, despite already having lost a pair of championship fights against Adesanya. At media day, Whittaker speculated that because of his pedigree, he’s fighting to keep his spot while Du Plessis has little to lose.
It’s an evaluation of the matchup stakes that Du Plessis vehemently disagrees with.
“I don’t know what he means, I have everything to lose,” Du Plessis said. “What do you mean? I’ve built up this record, I’m fighting for No. 1, to be No. 1 in the world, to be the champion, the world champion. Of course I have something to lose. I have everything to lose. I’m here to win. I’m here to be the UFC middleweight champion of the world and I have to get through Robert Whittaker, which is a very, very tall order, but I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to beat Robert Whittaker and get my shot at fighting for that title.
“But ‘nothing to lose?’ That makes no sense.”