Sport | MMA

‘I didn’t say he wasn’t a real African’ - Du Plessis on what he meant about being the ‘only’ African fighter

Dricus Du Plessis sat down for an extended interview with Hikurangi Kimiora Jackson (Te Ao with Moana) in his Pretoria gym, fresh after beating Māori Australian Robert Whittaker. As the new No. 1 contender in the middleweight division, Du Plessis hopes to challenge New Zealand’s own champion, Israel Adesanya but says he couldn’t fight in the upcoming UFC card in Australia in September due to an injury. However, Du Plessis challenges Adesanya to a showdown in Africa.

“Didn’t Israel say he wants to drag my carcass across South Africa? Let’s do it in South Africa. We can make that happen. You know, the UFC wants to do African events. There’s no better time than now and I would love that. And you know, he claims this is his continent and not mine. So, if this is your home continent and not mine, fight me on your home continent. Come and fight me in South Africa. Let’s make history by doing the first African UFC event and maybe the most memorable event ever.”

There’s been tension between the two after Du Plessis publicly stated that he was the “true African fighter”. What he meant by that has been hotly debated by UFC fans and fighters.

Critics of Du Plessis suggest he questioned Adesanya’s Africaness and whakapapa. However, Du Plessis insists he was referring to where Adesanya lives and trains.

“I simply stated the fact that I want to be the first residing African to be a UFC champion. I am the only residing African that is in a title contention right now in the world. That’s never happened before.

“I didn’t say anything about being a real African. I didn’t say he was not a real African. I did not say that I was more African. I don’t know where that narrative came from, but whatever. It doesn’t matter if he’s angry about that.”

“I do not care if he’s upset. What I said was the truth. And, simply, where are you now? In Pretoria, South Africa, where I live and where I train. And that was my statement. 100%. And racial undertones? Absolutely not.

“I will not even be a part of a discussion about racial undertones because I have never even closely said something like that. It would be ridiculous. It does not belong in this sport or in any sport. He made it like that…I don’t even wanna be part of that discussion. Because now I’m linked to that message, according to him. And, I don’t think it belongs anywhere in the world.”

Du Plessis says even though he doesn’t like Adesanya, he rates him as one of the greatest in the sport.

“I think Izzy is an incredible fighter. I think anybody that says otherwise doesn’t know anything about the sport. Izzy is incredible. He’s nearing middleweight GOAT status, but unfortunately, that will be cut short. I just know that I’m better.”

Trailblazers like Mark Hunt and James Te Huna were some of the first fighters to put New Zealand on the radar in the UFC world. The team at City Kickboxing, led by Israel Adesanya, have elevated UFC to another level in Aotearoa where rugby and cricket dominate. City Kickboxing has also produced fighters like Kai Kara France, Shane Young, Dan Hooker, Carlos Ulberg and even Australian world champion Alex Volkanovski.

In South Africa Du Plessis’s gym Team CIT MMA is trying to do the same thing. What Du Plessis has achieved in the last year - beating big names such as Robert Whittaker, Darren Till and Derick Brunson - has inspired teammates like fighter Marino “The Scorpion” Cutendana.

“It not only means a lot for South Africa but also Africa. Because a lot of people, especially in my country, they look towards Dricus and they wanna be there one day. So it means a lot for the whole continent of Africa.”

Fellow teammate Jaco Du Plessis still gets the chills seeing Dricus Du Plessis rise in the UFC world

“For us as a team, for us as a country - it’s a huge step into the MMA world. It makes us believe in ourselves more, that we can achieve what he has achieved.”

To watch the full interview with Dricus Du Plessis watch the video above.