New UFC champ's call-out of Adesanya

Publish Date
Monday, 22 January 2024, 10:14AM

By Christopher Reive

“Israel Adesanya, get your ass back in the cage so we can settle the score.”

Standing in the octagon at UFC 297, middleweight title shining around his waist, it was a strong call-out from the newly minted 84kg champion of the world, Dricus du Plessis.

Speaking to the Herald during the week, the South African would not comment on whether he was the man to entice Adesanya back into the cage after the Kiwi two-time champion of the division recently stated he was focused on quality over quantity in his career going forward.

“With a statement like that, and with him you never know what his plans are - where is his mind at? Does he want to fight? - I’m really not looking into that. The only thing I’m looking at is becoming champion... ask me again after the fight,” he said.

On Sunday afternoon, he answered that question after beating Sean Strickland by split decision.

“There was another guy who tried to take my shine. He lost this shine, now I have your shine,” du Plessis said in his post-fight interview, before calling for a fight against Adesanya.

The fight was supposed to happen in Sydney last September, however du Plessis had to decline the bout due to an injury. Strickland got the call-up instead and shocked the MMA world as he beat Adesanya in a lopsided decision.

However, there is a history and animosity between Adesanya and du Plessis. Adesanya’s desire to fight du Plessis was two-fold: it would be an opponent he was yet to fight, and comments made by du Plessis’ last year about Nigerian-born Adesanya not being a true African champion because he lives in New Zealand did not go down well with “The Last Stylebender”. In his pre-fight predictions of the UFC 297 card this weekend, Adesanya picked du Plessis to win the title.

The two even went so far as to have an in-cage face-off after du Plessis earned his No. 1 contender tag with a win over former champion Robert Whittaker last July – about eight weeks before the card in Sydney.

But whether Adesanya returns to take on the South African for the title is a story of another day. For now, du Plessis will revel in his triumph – with the cherry on top being the fact he went five rounds for the first time in his career and silenced critics who suggested he would run out of gas in a championship fight given his aggressive style.

It was Strickland who led the dance in the first round, finding a home for his jab seemingly at will and dictating the pace.

Du Plessis, known for his blitzing, relentless striking style, started to come on a bit stronger in the second round and mixed in his wrestling well to keep Strickland guessing in what was a razor-thin round.

While Strickland had been able to land well with his jab and caused du Plessis’ left eye to swell up, the South African maintained his aggressive approach through the third and fourth rounds, cutting his American counterpart open and having plenty of success with his takedowns.

Strickland had a big finish in the fifth round, letting his hands go more and having success in doing so. However, with neither man able to find the finish it came down to the judges. The second round proved to be the decider – two judges giving it to du Plessis to begin a new title reign.

He was one of two new champions crowned on the card, with American Raquel Pennington claiming the vacant women’s bantamweight championship with a unanimous decision over Brazil’s Mayra Bueno Silva.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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