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A brief history of the boiling feud between Israel Adesanya and Dricus du Plessis

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Israel Adesanya's next fight, Dricus du Plessis

The UFC has been built off great rivalries that fully capture the attention of the entire mixed martial arts community, and Dricus du Plessis and Israel Adesanya are the latest feud to engulf the sport.

Australia is set to play host to yet another mouthwatering duel between two fighters that have everything to prove and a lot to lose. Previously, it was Alexander Volkanovski looking to knock Islam Makhachev off the lightweight pedestal, and then Sean Strickland causing an upset to defeat Adesanya in Sydney.

Now, the UFC turns its entire attention onto how the next great rivalry will play out down under, with all signs pointing towards Adesanya fighting in Australia once again. But this time, it will be against current UFC middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis.

The two have been in a war of words for over a year now, with du Plessis’s comments on being the “true” African fighter seriously cutting Adesanya deep, considering that he was born in Nigeria, regardless of growing up in New Zealand.

Since then, there’s been no love lost between the pair and it’s seemed that there paths have been destined to cross, and for to feud to be settled inside the octagon. With Perth soon to host UFC 305, it seems RAC Arena will be the venue these two will finally meet in.

So with Dricus du Plessis and Israel Adesanya continuing their joust with words before the real fight begins, let’s have a trip down memory lane to revisit how we got to this ugly, yet entertaining, UFC feud.

adesanya, dricus du plessis, israel adesanya, ufc 305

How did Dricus du Plessis and Israel Adesanya’s feud even start?

When it comes to the sport of mixed martial arts, there are always going to be heated exchanges between fighters, especially between fighters in the same weight-division. For du Plessis and Adesanya, it’s fair to say their distain for one another stems from the fact they’re fighting for the same belt and title — UFC middleweight champion.

However, their verbal exchanges to date have strayed away from just being the ultimate competitors into a disagreement over where they come from, that has definitely built up fans’ expectation of a future bout. Although, it has also become quite ugly at times.

du Plessis says he wants to be the ‘real’ African champion

Back in March 2023, Dricus du Plessis defeated Derek Brunson via knockout on the preliminary card of UFC 285 in Las Vegas. Although, that wasn’t the biggest takeaway from the night in regards to du Plessis.

In his post-fight press conference, du Plessis was asked about the potential of bringing a UFC belt back to Africa – considering he’s South African – with the journalist elaborating in his question that there had been fighters of African heritage win titles, but hadn’t resided in the continent.

In response, du Plessis expressed his desire to do exactly that, while having a ‘drive-by’ on those previous champions.

“Did those belts ever got to Africa,” the South African said post-UFC 285.

“As for as I know it came to America and New Zealand. I’m going to take the belt to Africa. I’m the African fighter in the UFC.”

As you can expect, this didn’t go down well with Israel Adesanya who was born in Nigeria before moving to New Zealand where he grew up. It also didn’t sit well with other former UFC champions in Kamaru Usman and Francis Ngannou.

A lot of people construed his comments as him referring to himself as being more ‘African’ than them just because he still live on the continent. But du Plessis continually reiterates that this comment wasn’t a swipe at them, just what he claims is “the facts”.

Adesanya responds to the comment post-UFC 287

Only a month later at UFC 287, Israel Adesanya reclaimed the middleweight title in his second bout against Alex Pereira, where post-fight he responded to du Plessis’s comments about wanting to be the ‘true’ African champion.

He came back with some extremely ugly words, wildly claiming that he wanted to drag the South African’s body around the country after defeating him.

“I wanna whop his ass so bad,” Adesanya said in a press conference at UFC 287 last April.

“But I want to do it in South Africa or Nigeria, but he’s gotta do work. He’s gotta do something. Show me something so I can whop that ass.

“I pray to god he keeps winning. I will gladly drag his carcass across South Africa.”

Cut to 7:30 mark to hear his comments.

du Plessis and Adesanya come face-to-face at UFC 290

In July 2023, Dricus pulled off a stunning knockout victory over former middleweight champion and Australian combat sports legend Robert Whittaker at UFC 290. This win all but sealed what Adesanya was hoping for — for du Plessis to continue proving himself on the big stages.

With adrenaline pumping sitting ring-side, Adesanya came in to the octagon post-fight to confront du Plessis and escalate this grudge between the two even more.

Adesanya continually asks the South African what’s up and passive aggressively calls him “my African brother”, in which du Plessis responds with “I’m African, but I ain’t no brother of yours, son.”

But let’s just let the video do the talking, becuase let’s just say there’s a couple expletives in there that we definitely can’t type out.

du Plessis withdraws from UFC 293 bout against Adesanya

Following the intense face-off at UFC 290, the two were finally destined to put this grudge to bed by settling it inside the octagon. Sydney was booked in to host another pay-per-view card, and Australia was set to be the place this feud came to end — although it was never officially announced.

However, du Plessis pulled out from contention for the title fight with a foot injury, which sent Adesanya into a fit of rage on his Twitter via video saying that he is built different to the South African and would take on sixth-ranked Sean Strickland instead.

Sticking around to fight on the Sydney card in September, regardless of whether du Plessis was healthy to fight, proved to be a mistake for Adesanya, who ended up losing his middleweight title to Strickland by decision.

du Plessis wins middleweight title, calls out Adesanya

With the middleweight title now in the hands of Sean Strickland, du Plessis had to go through him in order to have an actual need to fight Adesanya in the future. He did this at UFC 297, winning via split-decision.

In his octagon interview he called out Adesanya, claiming that he had stolen Adesanya shine and that if he wanted the title back he’d have to come fight him.

“There was another guy who tried to take my shine,” du Plessis said in the octagon.

“He lost his shine, now I have your shine. He didn’t get into the cage tonight (alluding to their UFC 290 face-off) but Israel Adesanya get your ass back into the UFC so we can settle the score.”

Adesanya had reportedly hinted at stepping away from the UFC after losing his belt to Strickland – hence the last comment by du Plessis – but in true Israel style he took to Twitter to state that fans should stay tuned for the next episode of his journey, along with video of him and du Plessis.

Both fighters allude to UFC 305 bout

du Plessis had wanted to defend his middleweight title back home in South Africa, but with no plans soon for the UFC to schedule that, Perth’s UFC 305 seems to be where these two will finally face-off.

The South African took to Instagram to call out Adesanya once more, claiming that the Kiwi was also wanting this fight to be at UFC 305.

“Looks like someone wants another beating in Aus,” du Plessis said on Instagram alluding to Adesanya’s title fight defeat to Strickland in Sydney.

“I’m in, I also wouldn’t want to fight the king of Africa on home soil.

“Manifestations working good for you AGAIN!”

According to MMA insider Ariel Helwani, Israel Adesanya is “100 percent in” for this middleweight title fight in Australia, but he is yet to say anything publicly.

Strickland has been left furious that a rematch hasn’t been setup between him and du Plessis by the UFC, stating that everyone in the fighting community wants to see a rematch.

However, it does seem people would be way more invested in a du Plessis/Adesanya fight, considering the whole context behind it. But it would be fair to say that the loser of this fight would have to take on Strickland for another shot at the belt.

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