Dricus Du Plessis was scheduled to face Chris Curtis at the UFC 273 pay-per-view (PPV) event, but “Action Man” was injured and forced to bail. Fortunately for Du Plessis, fellow UFC middleweight Anthony Hernandez was also in need of a replacement fighter after his opponent, Albert Duraev, withdrew from the card.
Du Plessis was then offered an opportunity to fight No. 10-ranked Kelvin Gastelum, who was in need of a new opponent when Nassourdine Imavov got held up by visa issues. It was a much bigger opportunity with a higher card placement so Du Plessis accepted the fight — one week before showtime — and Hernandez was given UFC newcomer Josh Fremd.
“I was just kind of sitting back after a training session and I was like, ‘Man, I put in so much effort, so much time,” Gastelum told The Underground after the change in opponents. “I moved out here to Arizona for this, and like, I don’t want to let it go to waste,’ you know? This was an amazing training camp. Put in a lot of effort, a lot of thought, not just me, but a group of people behind me. We all collectively put in a lot of effort and work into this camp, so I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.”
Less than 24 hours after that interview Gastelum was “injured” and off the card.
“Who gets an injury a week before a fight?” Du Plessis asked MMA Fighting. “What could you possibly be doing to get injured, and if he was injured, you don’t know what the camp was like, but why would he insist on having a new opponent when he had to pull out? So he wasn’t injured on Monday, because that’s [when] he insisted on the fight, and all of a sudden, he’s injured on Friday? That sounds very fishy to me.”
Gastelum did not reveal the nature of his injury.
“You were our last hope to stay on the card, and I was so thankful that you accepted the fight,” Gastelum said in a Twitter video directed at De Plessis. “I’m sorry. I wish this didn’t happen, but it did, and unfortunately, I have to withdraw from the fight. I was advised not to disclose the injury, but just know, I am compromised, and I can’t and won’t be heading into the fight compromised the way that I am.”
Doesn’t sound like the 16-2 “Stillknocks” is buying what Team Gastelum is selling.
“I guess they started watching tape and that’s where the problems started, to be honest,” Du Plessis continued. “He really needs a win — let’s not beat around the bush, he needs a win — and this is a great opportunity for him. He’s fighting a guy who’s making some noise, a South African guy, he’s ranked No. 20, and he finds out, let’s get this easy fight and get in the win column. Then he watched the tape and realized this is no walkover fight.”
As a result, Du Plessis was pulled from the April 9 fight card in Jacksonville.
“It’s his fault,” Du Plessis said. “He postponed to cancel the fight. Nobody wants to take a fight on a week’s notice. It’s hard to take a fight, especially on a week’s notice. And here Gastelum comes and waits until a week before the fight to all of a sudden say, ‘No, I’m injured,’ when he insisted on a new fight. It’s frustrating and a little bit disrespectful toward opponents and the sport as a whole.”
To see the reworked UFC 273 fight card and PPV lineup click here.