After his win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 290, Du Plessis was the clear No. 1 contender to face Israel Adesanya next. Unfortunately, an injury prevented Du Plessis from fighting Adesanya at UFC 293 and so instead, Sean Strickland stepped in, and authored one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, shaking up the middleweight title picture. In the aftermath, Sonnen was critical of Du Plessis, saying he messed up his title opportunity and now is stuck in limbo, something that upset Du Plessis.
“We did a faceoff,” Du Plessis said on The MMA Hour. “The champion got in there, so it was set in stone. I am the No. 1 contender in the world. For me, that was basically set in stone. Even backstage we spoke about it, going to Australia, what the arrangements would be, with the powers that be. So it was basically a done deal, but I said it at the presser, if I’m medically able to, that’s the fight I’m going to take.
“Chael Sonnen said something stupid like, ‘Dricus wasn’t even limping when he was walking out of the cage!’ What a dumb thing to say. All that adrenaline in your body, you just knocked out Whittaker, just faced off with Adesanya, you think I’m going to walk with a limp? I don’t know what kind of man you are but I’ll fake that limp every day.”
Du Plessis was unable to fight at UFC 293 due to a foot injury sustained just before his bout with Robert Whittaker at UFC 290. Explaining exactly what happened, Du Plessis said that it was the timing of the injury that messed everything up, that and the quick turnaround that would have been required.
“We spoke about it. We as a team, me and my coaches, my teammates, the whole team, we realized, this is going to be a tough one,” Du Plessis said. “We’re going to have to make this [quick turnaround]. Then a lot of people said, is there a part of you that has to take the fight camp and take into consideration that you have to fight in seven weeks when you’re fighting Robert Whittaker? I thought about it and said, listen, that’s not even possible. Fighting Robert Whittaker at 70 percent so I don’t injure myself or don’t use all of my [whatever]. No. If I’m fighting Robert Whittaker, you need to fight at 110 percent, and that’s what I did.
“I had a great fight camp, but unfortunately I got injured, 19 or 18 days — it was exactly the day before we flew out. It was my last session at the gym and I injured myself. I didn’t kick with the foot once. Everybody at the [UFC] PI, all the physios, you can ask them. They were working on the foot every day before the Whittaker fight. Adrenaline pulled me through. Three weeks before the fight, when I arrive, all the hard work is done. I’m ready to fight.”
Despite the fact that things were out of his control, Du Plessis is still on the outside looking in at the middleweight title picture. UFC CEO Dana White has already suggested an immediate rematch is in order for Adesanya and as Sonnen noted, the winner of the upcoming fight between Khamzet Chimaev and Paulo Costa could also jump Du Plessis. But even knowing that and believing that he would have demolished Adesanya at UFC 293, Du Plessis doesn’t regret a thing.
“Not at all. Not one single part,” Du Plessis said when asked if he has regrets. “The best Dricus would beat him, the Dricus that fights when he’s fit and healthy, one hundred percent. I only started kicking two, three weeks ago. Being a kicker myself, against a guy that kicks a lot, not being able to kick, not even being able to wrestle properly because of the foot, that version of me, that’s why we said no. Because I knew I was going to be below 60 percent going into that fight. And going into a fight like that when you’re prepared, in the middle of camp, that’s one thing. But starting your camp that way, that’s foolishness.”