SA’s Dricus du Plessis to tackle Robert Whittaker in Middleweight title eliminator fight at UFC 290

South Africa’s MMA star Dricus Du Plessis. Picture: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images via AFP

South Africa’s MMA star Dricus Du Plessis. Picture: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images via AFP

Published Apr 22, 2023


Cape Town - UFC President Dana White has confirmed that South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis and Australia’s Robert Whittaker will throw down in a number-one contender Middleweight bout on July 8 at UFC 290 during International Fight Week later this year.

The former UFC Middleweight champion and current number-two ranked Whittaker will look to book a third shot at Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and reclaim the title.

South Africa’s superstar and number-six-ranked Du Plessis could make history by becoming the first African-based UFC athlete to fight for a title should he overcome Whittaker at the T-Mobile Arena in three months' time.

White confirmed that the winner could fly to Sydney, Australia, to face Adesanya, who recently reclaimed his title against an old foe in Brazil’s Alex Pereira at UFC 287 earlier this month.

“The winner between Robert Whittaker and Dricus du Plessis will fight Israel Adesanya later this year, and that fight is targeted for Sydney, Australia," said White.

The 32-year-old Whittaker comes off a win over Italy’s number-three-ranked Marvin Vettori, before that, the New Zealand-born star recorded thirteen wins and only two losses dating back to 2014, with both those losses coming against Adesanya.

Du Plessis has been on a seven-fight streak with five straight wins since signing with the UFC, with notable victories over Darren Till and Derek Brunson in his last two fights.

Du Plessis now edges closer to making history by becoming South Africa’s first UFC champion and the first athlete fighting out of Africa to bring home UFC gold.

Du Plessis caused quite a stir recently after stating that he will be the first African to bring the belt home, questioning the authenticity of former Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, current Middleweight champion Adesanya and former UFC Heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou from Cameroon.

Usman was born in Auchi, Edo, Nigeria before his family emigrated to the USA, where he grew up. Adesanya was born in Lagos before his family moved to New Zealand, where he established himself as one of the greatest fighters. Ngannou was born in Batie, Cameroon, however, tough conditions and a lack of opportunities forced him to flee his home country, ending up in France, where he forged a fierce reputation as an MMA fighter before settling in the USA where he became the first-African born UFC Heavyweight champion.

Earlier this year, at a UFC media day, Du Plessis had much to say about the validity of some athletes claiming to be real African champions since they built their careers in other countries.

“Did those belts ever go to Africa?” questioned Du Plessis at a recent UFC media day earlier this year.

“As far as I know, they came to America and New Zealand. I am going to take the belt to Africa. I am an African who fights in the UFC. Cameron Saaiman and I breathe African air. We wake up in Africa every day. We train in Africa. We’re African-born. We’re Africa-raised. We still reside in Africa. We train out of Africa. That’s an African champion, that’s who I will be,” added Du Plessis.

Du Plessis’ statement stirred up quite a ruckus globally. While many African fans backed him, there were also mixed emotions, with some fans questioning his lineage and staking claim to the title 'African champion' being a white male whose forefathers came to Africa generations ago from Europe.

Both Usman and Adesanya spoke on Du Plessis’ comments, and Adesanya more recently indirectly hinted at wanting to “drag his carcass across South Africa”.

“I don’t wanna give this n**** clout,” the UFC champ said following his win over Pereira.

“I wanna whoop his ass so bad. I wanna do it in South Africa or Nigeria, but he’s got to do work, he’s got to do something, show me something, so I can whoop that ass, and I can show you history. I’ll remind you because you need to choose your words wisely when you speak about people who have come before you, people that paved the way for you. You have to pick your words wisely. You want to try and be a big boy. I pray to God he keeps winning. I will gladly drag his carcass across South Africa.”


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