The UFC middleweight title picture is moving on without Dricus Du Plessis.
UFC 293 officially received its main event yesterday. The promotion returns to Sydney, Australia with the Sept. 9 pay-per-view, featuring a 185-pound championship tilt between the two-time current title holder Israel Adesanya and Sean Strickland.
The battle for middleweight gold was expected to be between Adesanya and Du Plessis after the latter’s huge upset win over the former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 last month. Unfortunately for “Stillknocks,” a foot injury suffered before the win has still yet to fully heal, therefore, preventing the brewing grudge match from taking place. Adesanya’s coach at City Kickboxing Eugene Bareman believes the South African has possibly missed his chance because of his declination of the opportunity.
“I don’t make that call but the problem is if you don’t step up and take fights, you go into the pool, that’s a fact,” Bareman told Submission Radio. “Nothing in this sport is solid until there’s something signed on the dotted line. If he’s got nothing signed on the dotted line then he’s out there in the ether. He had a shot. It’s the same shot that many of my boys have had who fought for titles or have titles. You never, never, never — and fought with horrific injuries — you don’t take that lightly.
“The problem with them is they’ve had an injury and it’s been a bad injury. So what? You’ve taken your shot for granted. You think you’re gonna get it again. But you don’t know what this machine does. You don’t know the UFC. You don’t know what they do. You don’t know how they twist and turn things. Never feel comfortable with where you are. If there’s something in front of you that you’ve been working for your whole life, don’t think for a minute that it can’t be taken away just like that. He had it and he let it slip. So, they can’t be sitting comfortable thinking that they’ve got the next shot. Because they don’t. I know this sport. The fact is they don’t. They did. They never took it and now they should not be sitting comfortable thinking they got the next shot because in this sport that’s just not true.”
Du Plessis currently sits atop the official UFC rankings as the No. 1-ranked contender compared to Strickland’s spot at No. 5. There have been plenty of instances throughout UFC history where streaking contenders have had their title shots delayed for one reason or another. Thankfully for Du Plessis, the nature of this short timespan could play in his favor, depending on how things unfold in Adesanya vs. Strickland.
In the case of Strickland, he’s remained as active as he possibly can be as he gears up for what will be his third fight of 2023. Strickland got back in the winner’s circle in January, earning a unanimous decision win over Nassourdine Imavov in a short-notice light heavyweight tilt. Most recently, he scored a second-round TKO in the main event of UFC Vegas 76 against Abus Magomedov just one week before Du Plessis beat Whittaker.
Ultimately, Bareman sees this all as a potential advantage for Strickland and assumes all opponents of his team are being smart with their game plans and already have a step ahead of them on preparation.
“He’s coming off a fight camp and a quick turnaround coming off another fight can be an advantage if you use it the right way and his team knows that,” Bareman said. “He’s got a smart team a smart coach and he must have known that potentially this might be on the cards so if he was smart then he would have got into training straight away. Even if there was a five to 10 percent chance of them having a title shot. On a two percent chance people at this gym have trained and done a full camp. You just get yourself ready if there’s an inkling or even a small chance then you get yourself ready and you might get the call up.
“If he’s smart, it’s not short notice. If he’s smart, he’s coming off the back of another camp and he went straight into another one and he’s got an advantage in that respect.”
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Bareman makes a very compelling, and rather motivating, point. At the same time, I understand wanting to be as healthy as you can be ahead of the biggest fight of your career. Du Plessis’ confidence is obviously high enough that he can get through one more body if needed.
Thanks for reading!
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