Adesanya stepped into the octagon following Du Plessis’ stoppage of the ex-champ and let loose a series of expletives apparently saved up for the South African’s face. The two didn’t come to blows, but the language on display lent an ugly, racial undertone to the upcoming fight.
“You saw it tonight, I’m prepared,” Du Plessis said at the post-fight press conference on Saturday in Las Vegas. “I’m prepared for everything he says.
“He’s behaving like a clown in there. That’s not how a champion behaves. That’s not at all how a man behaves. He’s behaving like a child. Conduct yourself like a champion. There’s people looking up to you, and you’re behaving like that. If that sells tickets, good for him. I’ll sell tickets in my way. I’m a gentleman, I’m a man, and I’ll behave like a man.”
Du Plessis got Adesanya’s attention by making African residency a central part of his campaign to win the title. He contrasted his residency in Africa with Adesanya’s in New Zealand and added, “that’s an African champion, and that’s who I’ll be.”
Du Plessis defended himself against critics who accused him of disrespecting Adesanya’s African heritage, saying he never explicitly said he would be “more African” than the champ. Adesanya wasn’t convinced by that clarification and targeted a showdown at UFC 293 in Sydney on Sept. 10.
“I never questioned his ethnicity,” Adesanya said recently on The MMA Hour. “I never said he’s not African, even though colonization — we don’t want to go over all that stuff. He is in Africa, he was born in South Africa, and I never questioned that. But the fact that he was being a d***head, ‘We know who the real African is, I breathe African air,’ all that kind of stuff — how the f*** are you going to question me, Francis, and Kamaru’s blackness or African-ness? Who the f*** are you? So I had to put that out there. I want to educate him.”
On Saturday, Adesanya upped the rhetoric by calling du Plessis the n-word several times. He mocked the South African fighter by offering a genetic test to prove his Caucasian heritage.
Du Plessis said he wasn’t rattled by the sudden incursion.
“It’s usually the contender that goes into the cage, right? So even he sees me as the champion already,” the middleweight contender said of Adesanya. “He knows I’m the champion, and now that he’s seen me in that cage, he knows what a force I am in there. He could feel the energy, and I could feel how insignificant he is to me when we get into that cage.”
Adesanya and Du Plessis share a short history in MMA, having sparred together in Thailand early in their careers. Adesanya acknowledged Du Plessis was superior in the grappling department.
Du Plessis touted his knockout of Whittaker as proof of his competitiveness in the striking game, but he reiterated his supreme confidence if a fight with Adesanya goes to the ground.
“I’ll knock him out just like I did tonight,” du Plessis said. “We saw his fight with Alex [Pereira]. If I get him to the floor, it is not even a fight. It’s not even a fight. If I just get my hands on him, it’s not even a fight. I will manhandle him. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.
“You are as good as your last performance. What did his last performance look like against Whittaker? Yeah, you beat him. It was a close fight. What did my last performance against Whittaker look like? So right now, that’s how I plan on beating him. The same way I beat Whittaker tonight, by implementing the game plan and sticking to my style and doing what we do best, listening to my coaches, listening to ... the great teammates I have ... coming up with game plans with this awkward style.
“This style that looks completely wrong to so many people. I’m the No. 1 contender in the world right now. So it’s time to put some respect on that.”
For Adesanya, that respect will have to be taken in the octagon. The middleweight champ made it clear he hasn’t forgotten what Du Plessis said.
Say it to my face.— Israel Adesanya (@stylebender) July 9, 2023