Israel Adesanya and Dricus Du Plessis sparring footage shows origin of UFC rivalry

Adesanya is expected to be Du Plessis’s first title challenger, and the ex-champion has now shared old footage of a run-in between them

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Monday 22 January 2024 18:05 GMT
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Israel Adesanya took to social media at the weekend to share footage of a run-in with Dricus Du Plessis in 2016, when the pair collided while sparring.

Du Plessis won the middleweight title from Sean Strickland via split decision at UFC 297 on Saturday (20 January), four months after Strickland dethroned Adesanya in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history.

Adesanya was initially expected to defend the title against Du Plessis in September, but the latter suffered an injury and was replaced by Strickland. Du Plessis’s patience was rewarded on Saturday, when he became South Africa’s first UFC champion.

Adesanya, a former two-time champion, is expected to be Du Plessis’s first challenger, after the Nigerian-New Zealander launched an explosive tirade at Du Plessis last July. Adesanya confronted Du Plessis in the cage after the latter’s surprise TKO of Robert Whittaker, taking issue with his claim that he wanted to become the first UFC champion to be based in Africa.

Addressing the likelihood of a bout with Du Plessis, Adesanya wrote on X on Sunday (21 January): “This arc in my story was written long ago. Our paths are destined to cross again. Stay tuned for the next episode, thanks for watching. We Write History.”

Along with those words, Adesanya shared a clip from 2016 that shows him accidentally colliding with Du Plessis during a sparring session, in which Du Plessis was training with Adesanya’s teammate Alexander Volkanovski – the reigning UFC featherweight champion.

Adesanya also shared footage of his in-ring confrontation with Du Plessis, as well as a video of his own career highlights.

In a video on his YouTube channel, Adesanya added: “The main event, it was nice to watch. I thought Dricus, I thought he would use his wrestling more in the middle of the rounds, but he did use it at the end, which was smart of him to steal the rounds. My ‘guesstimate’ on watching this: [Rounds] three, four, five, he took.

“Now he is the fourth African champion in UFC history, so congrats to you, my African brother Dricus Du Plessis. Legit, I’m happy for him, I actually like his story. But he still did what he did, and I’m still going to test that ass.”

Adesanya first reigned as UFC middleweight champion from 2019 until 2022, when he lost the belt to old kickboxing rival Alex Pereira. Adesanya, 34, avenged that defeat by knocking out Pereira last April, before losing the title again in his fight with Strickland.

Adesanya later said he would take a break from MMA, but he is expected to be back in action in the latter half of 2024. Du Plessis, 30, welcomed a bout against the “Last Stylebender” at UFC 300 in April, but the event is likely to come too soon for Adesanya.

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