Dricus Du Plessis had the opportunity to challenge reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya for the 185-pound strap, but “Stillknocks” was more interested in summer vacation (blame this trend setter) and foot rehabilitation than fighting atop the UFC 293 pay-per-view (PPV) card next month in Sydney.
Now the South African slugger may have to work his way back up to the title.
“He didn’t wanna push through his injury. So, it doesn’t matter to me. That’s something to do with him and his team, and he has to go back and fight someone else,” Adesanya’s coach, Eugene Bareman, told Submission Radio. “I don’t make that call. But the problem is, if you don’t step up and take fights, you go into the pool. That’s a fact. Nothing in this sport is solid until there’s something signed on the dotted line. If he’s got nothing signed on the dotted line, then he’s out there in the ether. He had a shot. It’s the same shot that many of my boys have had who have fought for titles or had titles.”
Du Plessis (20-2) appeared to be a lock for the next middleweight title shot after stopping former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 last month in Las Vegas. Unfortunately the promotion already committed Adesanya to UFC 293 and needed “Stillknocks” to make a quick turnaround for his racially-charged crack at the crown.
“You never, never — and we’ve fought with horrific injuries, because you don’t take that lightly,” Bareman continued. “And the problem with them is they’ve had an injury. And yeah, it’s been a bad injury. So what? You’ve taken your shot for granted. You think you’re going to get it again. But you don’t know what this machine does. You don’t know the UFC. You don’t know what they do. You don’t know how they twist and turn things. Never feel comfortable with where you are. If there’s something in front of you that you’ve been working for your whole life, don’t think for a minute that it can’t just be taken away just like that.”
It was, in fact, taken away and handed to longtime middleweight contender Sean Strickland (27-5), who is coming off back-to-back wins over Nassourdine Imavov and Abusupiyan Magomedov. A victory for “Tarzan” would likely result in an immediate rematch but a win for Adesanya doesn’t necessarily open the door for Du Plessis, especially with the resurgent Jared Cannonier nipping at his heels.
“He had it, and he let it slip,” Bareman said. “So, they can’t be sitting comfortable thinking that they got the next shot. Because they don’t. Because I know this sport. The fact is they don’t. But they did. They never took it. And now they should not be sitting comfortable thinking they got the next shot. Because in this sport, it’s just not true.”
We’ll find out next month in Sydney.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 293 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPNN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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