Dricus De Plessis doesn’t think that Israel Adesanya conducted himself the way a champion should when he brought race into the conversation around a potential fight between the two middleweights.
Currently the UFC’s #6-ranked middleweight contender, “Stillknocks” is preparing for the biggest test of his career when he takes on former middleweight titleholder Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 this weekend. The South African is undefeated since joining the UFC in 2020, and he’s made it clear that he intends to claim the promotion’s middleweight title if he’s able to get past Whittaker.
Du Plessis could potentially provide a fresh challenge for Adesanya, who reclaimed the middleweight belt from Alex Pereira earlier this year but already defeated most of the division’s top contenders during his previous title reign.
The two fighters have already exchanged some heated words with one another over the past few months, which prompted Shakiel Mahjouri to ask Du Plessis if he was worried that race would become a dominant talking point ahead of the hypothetical matchup.
“The fact that Israel Adesanya brought race into the conversation – that anybody brings race into a conversation like this – that was disgusting,” Du Plessis said simply. “I thought that was terrible. I thought that was taking a step backwards. I was obviously shocked, I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I couldn’t believe when I heard that race was brought into it. To be honest with you, I felt like the world of sports just took a step backwards. And that was ridiculous to make it about that.”
Dricus Du Plessis Questions ‘Example’ Israel Adesanya Is Setting As Champion
Adesanya was born in Nigeria but raised in New Zealand, and even though Du Plessis has stated he wants to be the UFC’s first African-trained champion, he doesn’t believe that “The Last Stylebender” should have escalated their trash talk by bringing race into it.
Adesanya reclaimed his middleweight title at UFC 287. (Rich Storry/USA TODAY Sports)
“I was really disappointed, and Adesanya as a champion has some sort of a responsibility. I think for him saying that – it doesn’t offend me at all, I’m not offended at all at any racial slurs that he called me. It doesn’t offend me. But the fact that that’s the example that he’s setting as a champion, that’s a little bit – I don’t think that belongs to a champion’s character, I don’t believe that’s the message you want to send…I don’t like that narrative at all. But at the end of the day, I’m the guy that’s going to take the belt home to Africa, where I live.”
“Stillknocks” isn’t the only South African fighter set to compete at UFC 290, as his friend and teammate Cameron Saaiman will be putting his undefeated record on the line when he meets promotional newcomer Terrence Mitchell in a bantamweight bout on the event’s prelims.
Many fans would love to see a new challenger step up for Adesanya’s next title defense, but Du Plessis will have a difficult task ahead of him when he meets Whittaker this weekend. “The Reaper” has fallen short against Adesanya on two occasions, but he’s beaten every other opponent he’s faced since moving up to the middleweight division in 2014.
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