Du Plessis Willing to Engage in Mental Warfare With Strickland

December 18, 2023
4 months

Dricus du Plessis believes that Sean Strickland has something that should be his. Du Plessis was offered a shot at the UFC Middleweight championship in September but turned down the short-notice fight to tend to an injured foot. Instead, Strickland stepped in to fight revered champion Israel Adesanya.

To the surprise of many, Strickland dominated Adesanya and won a comfortable decision. When Adesanya decided to take some time away from the octagon instead of pricing an immediate rematch, Du Plessis was tabbed as the next challenger. Before UFC 296 last Saturday, the two met at a heated press conference where personal insults were exchanged.

Strickland and du Plessis were seated near each other in the crowd at UFC 297. An altercation occurred that will build heat for their championship fight on Jan. 20, 2024. Fighting in the stands is stupid for anyone. Criminal charges are always possible, but an injury on either side could have impacted their payday next month. MMAfighting latest news shows that this fight is still on and could get even more personal, if that’s possible, as fight day approaches.

Brawl in Stands Had Seeds Planted Before UFC 296

For the first time in a few years, the UFC brought back a press conference to promote fights from the first quarter of 2024. Things went downhill quickly when Strickland insulted the bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley for having an open relationship with his wife. O’Malley said, “At least my dad did (expletive) me.”

Du Plessis built on this line of insult later in the press conference. Strickland drew first blood by implying that Du Plessis had a sexual relationship with his coach. Du Plessis wasn’t beneath getting involved in the personal attacks.

“You think your dad beat the (expletive) out of you? Your dad doesn’t have (expletive) on me,” Du Plessis said. “Every childhood memory you have is gonna come back when I’m in there with you.”

During a series of wildly inappropriate remarks, that was the one that Strickland judged as being over the line. Strickland would fume about the remarks and would take to X, formerly Twitter, to expand on how he felt about child abuse. All of that back-and-forth built more tension for their faceoff, according to MMA breaking news.

When Strickland and Du Plessis faced off, Strickland was talking trash continuously and had to be pulled away from attacking Du Plessis.

UFC Needs to Work on Their Seating Charts

During UFC 296, the camera showed du Plessis sitting a few rows behind Strickland. Strickland shot up and made a finger gun motion before pretending to shoot Du Plessis, who pretended to dodge the fake bullet. Du Plessis continued to hurl insults at Strickland.

Strickland asked the people behind him to move. Then Strickland stepped over the chair and started firing punches at du Plessis. The fight was quickly broken up by arena security. Strickland was asked to go to the back and calm down but left instead.

UFC CEO Dana White took the blame for sitting du Plessis and Strickland a few rows from each other at UFC 296. He described it as a big mistake. Neither man sustained an injury that could delay the fight, so they will still meet next month as scheduled.

Strickland is a Wild Card

Strickland becoming a champion is a fantastic story, no matter what you think about his often ignorant trash talk. Before the pandemic, Strickland was in a serious motorcycle accident that saw him suffer injuries so serious that it kept him out of the octagon for two years.

Strickland also survived some challenging runs in the octagon. Back-to-back losses to Jared Cannonier and Alex Pereira dropped Strickland’s record to 25-5. It appeared that he would never get an opportunity to fight for a championship.

But Strickland won his next two bouts before du Plessis pulled out of the fight with Adesanya and opened a door for Stickland to fight for a championship.

South African Contender Climbs Rankings Quickly

There was plenty on du Plessis before he started feuding with Strickland. Originally, du Plessis was angling for a fight with Adesanya and had accused the Nigerian-born Adesanya of not being African because he didn’t live there growing up or as an adult. Adesanya moved to New Zealand as a child.

Du Plessis, a native of Hatfield, Pretoria, South Africa, has taken the UFC by storm since debuting with a knockout of Markus Perez in October 2020. Du Plessis followed that up by winning five straight fights to improve to 20-2 in his career.

The largest of those victories came when du Plessis knocked out former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 in July 2023. After the win over Whittaker, du Plessis called out Adesanya. However, when White called with an opportunity to fight in September, du Plessis decided to sit out with an injury.

Will Bad Blood Make a Difference?

There have been many UFC fights with a stirring buildup; Leon Edwards’ win over Colby Covington last Saturday had many personal insults exchanged during the promotion for the fight. However, when the fight started, Edwards was calm and collected and didn’t fight recklessly to get back at Covington.

Not every fighter can contain their emotions like that. Strickland is typically a steady fighter. He fights out of a more defensive stance and looks to work behind his jab. Meanwhile, du Plessis is more willing to take risks and utilize his power to try and find a knockout. How successful both men can be will determine how the fight goes in January. 

Strickland is a more emotional guy and has shown that the insults bother him. But until someone gets Strickland out of his game plan during a fight, it’s hard to believe mean words from du Plessis will change things. However, du Plessis may have crossed the Rubicon with the one subject matter that Strickland would never joke about.

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