Top-Ranked UFC Star Says Taking Next Fight Was ‘Not the Smart Move’

Dricus Du Plessis

Getty Dricus Du Plessis

No. 6-ranked UFC middleweight Dricus Du Plessis is in the crosshairs of 185-pound champion Israel Adesanya. But, instead of campaigning for a title fight, he elected to take a match with former divisional king Robert Whittaker.

After “The Last Stylebender” took back his belt from Alex Pereira in April at UFC 287, he said he wanted to “torture” the South African for his comments about being a better representative for Africa than him. Adesanya was born in Nigeria but lives in New Zealand.

Because of their beef, and the fact that Adesanya holds a win over every fighter ranked ahead of Du Plessis at middleweight, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the promotion offer “Stillknocks” a shot at gold. Instead, Du Plessis will battle “The Reaper” at UFC 290 on July 8 in what is billed as a title eliminator.

When recently speaking with Submission Radio, Du Plessis said that although he would have accepted a championship tilt in July, he was ultimately offered Whittaker. And instead of declining it and campaigning for Adesanya, he jumped at the opportunity to cement himself as the next bonafide 185-pound title contender. Even if it’s perhaps not the most calculated move.

“A lot of people are saying it’s not the smartest move to fight Whittaker,” Du Plessis said. “100 percent — I agree with that. I agree it’s not the smart move, but I’m not here to be smart. Otherwise, I would’ve stayed in school and finished my studies and maybe go work at a bank, wore a suit to work every day, and did some corporate life. But that’s not the life I chose. I chose to be a warrior. I chose to be an entertainer, and at the end of the day, I’m a fighter. And that’s what I do: I fight.”

Du Plessis Wants His Octagon Performances Earn Him a Title Fight, Not His Conflict With Adesanya

Boasting an impressive 19-2 professional mixed martial arts record, Stillknocks is riding a seven-fight win streak and is undefeated as a UFC athlete. He earned back-to-back wins over Derek Brunson and Darren Till, which elevated him to the No. 6 spot.

And Du Plessis told the outlet that he wants his work inside the Octagon to earn him a contest with The Last Stylebender — not his mouth.

“I don’t want to get that title shot based on some hype created by — I don’t even know what — some guy who has the title who’s behaving like a little child and overreacting and now the fight is happening because of that,” Du Plessis said. “I want to deserve my title shot. I don’t want to be handed a title shot. I’m going to deserve my belt, and that’s why I wanted that Whittaker fight.”

Whittaker Is 1 of Only a Few Fighters Who Isn’t a Champion But Is Ranked Pound-for-Pound

If Du Plessis gets past Whittaker in July, he’ll be hard to deny. The Reaper is one of the most respected combatants in the game and is ranked No. 15 in the men’s pound-for-pound standings.

He’s 24-6 and is 4-1 in his last five outings. Whittaker is 0-2 against Adesanya, but if he beats Du Plessis, he’ll likely battle Adesanya in a trilogy match before the end of the year.

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