Strickland Defends Title Against Du Plessis After Backstage Altercation
The main event of UFC 297 in Las Vegas this Saturday, January 20th, will see middleweight champion Sean Strickland defend his title against number one contender Dricus Du Plessis. The fight comes after the two were involved in a heated backstage altercation at a UFC press event last November.
Strickland and Du Plessis came face-to-face unexpectedly backstage and ended up in a brief physical confrontation. Security and staff intervened to separate them before things escalated too far.
In the aftermath, Strickland sent threatening messages to Du Plessis, warning he would stab him if he “crosses the line” in promoting their fight. Du Plessis later revealed that UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya had sent him direct messages calling Strickland a “hypocrite” for his behavior.
Bad Blood Adds Intrigue to Crucial Title Fight
The tension between the two has added further intrigue to a fight that already has high stakes in the middleweight division.
Strickland will attempt to defend his title for the first time since winning it from Paulo Costa last June. Meanwhile, Du Plessis comes into the fight on a 7-fight win streak and has the chance to become the first African-born UFC champion.
UFC president Dana White stated, “These two have some legit bad blood between them now. This isn’t manufactured hype – they had a real backstage brawl, Strickland is talking about stabbing Du Plessis…this fight just got a lot more interesting.”
Fighters Look to Settle Rivalry Inside the Octagon
At the pre-fight press conference this week, Strickland stated he is looking forward to finally settling things with Du Plessis at UFC 297:
“All the talking, all the threats, all the BS ends on Saturday night. I’m going to meet this guy toe-to-toe in the Octagon and we’re going to throw down. The last man standing walks out with the belt around his waist. Nothing else matters now except finishing this guy.”
Du Plessis made it clear the dislike between them is real, but he plans to remain composed leading up to fight night:
“There is real beef here after what happened backstage and the things he said to me and about me. But I won’t let emotions cloud my preparation. I’ll do my talking with my performance on Saturday night.”
|Dricus Du Plessis
|2 straight wins
|7 straight wins
*Fighter profiles and records prior to UFC 297
Coach Says Strickland Will See Red in Grudge Match
Strickland’s lead coach recently compared Du Plessis to “a big puppy” when discussing his MMA development, suggesting Strickland’s experience and skills give him a significant edge.
However, the coach did concede that the personal rivalry adds unpredictability to this title fight:
“Given the bad blood, I expect Sean is going to see a little bit of red in this fight. He needs to keep his composure because Du Plessis definitely has skills and is dangerous.”
Du Plessis Has Eye on Adesanya Mega-Fight With a Win
Looking ahead to a potential win on Saturday night, Du Plessis has already started trash talking current middleweight champ Israel Adesanya.
The two have traded barbs on social media, with Adesanya offering to step in against Du Plessis if Strickland withdraws from their bout due to injury.
A matchup between African rivals Du Plessis and Adesanya would be hugely marketable for the UFC. But first, Du Plessis needs to get through Strickland and capture UFC gold.
UFC 297 Shaping Up as Action-Packed Night of Fights
Before the main event grudge match, UFC 297 features a series of intriguing bouts full of rising contenders:
- #2 ranked women’s flyweight Mayra Bueno Silva takes on #9 Andrea Lee
- Featherweight finisher Shane Burgos returns against dangerous Charles Jourdain
- Former interim title challenger Gilbert Burns looks to rebound against surging Neil Magny
With bad blood pushing the main event to another level, UFC 297 has all the makings of an explosive night of elite MMA action. The Octagon hosts could get rowdy on Saturday night when bitter middleweight rivals Strickland and Du Plessis settle the score!
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