Exclusive: Dricus Du Plessis To Display ‘Best Performance Of My Career’ Against Robert Whittaker At UFC 290

Dricus Du Plessis expects big things out of himself, come International Fight Week.

(via @dricusduplessis - Instagram)

Dricus Du Plessis is dripping with confidence. 

The stakes have never been higher for the #6 UFC Middleweight contender as he takes on ‘The Reaper’ Robert Whittaker at UFC 290. Undisputed king Israel Adesanya will await the winner of the confirmed title eliminator matchup, whether it be his old rival or his new one.

Climbing Up The Ladder

Du Plessis is undefeated in the Octagon, stringing together 5 straight wins since his promotional debut in 2020. However, he acknowledges that he has yet to face anyone as accomplished as former champ Whittaker. 

“Yes, absolutely,” Du Plessis told Middle Easy, when asked if Whittaker was a step up in competition. “I think every fight has been a step up, when I started with Markus Perez, then Trevor Giles from Giles to Tavares. Brad Tavares, [Darren] Till to [Derek] Brunson, and finally getting the number one guy just behind the champ in the division. I guess that’s the trajectory of a champion. That’s the way it has to work, fighting better guys, stepping up and fighting up the ladder. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Past To Present: Du Plessis To Attempt A ‘World Record Leap’

The South African contender has been counted out by many ahead of this ‘step up’ in competition with oddsmakers having him as a 3-1 underdog against the heavy favorite Whittaker. Some might say it’s because of Du Plessis’ latest performance against Derek Brunson which saw him go into deep water at UFC 285.

Du Plessis expects to be leaps and bounds better than he was back then. 

“Robert Whittaker, he’s an incredible athlete. Everybody knows that, there’s no saying he’s bad at anything. Robert Whittaker is a brilliant athlete and this is definitely a step up in competition. So much is a step up for me to face a guy like Whitaker, that much is gonna be a step up for him to face me.

“The Dricus that’s gonna be stepping in that cage will be not only a step up, it would be one massive leap. Probably a world record leap from the Dricus that faced Derek Brunson.”

Israel Adesanya wasn’t exactly a fan of this title eliminator bout being made.

The middleweight champion wanted some fresh meat in heated adversary Du Plessis for his next title defense rather than two-time foe Whittaker. Adesanya’s wish to fight DDP could come true if he’s victorious at UFC 290, but there’s potential for his dream to be utterly shattered should ‘The Reaper’ reap.

Du Plessis On Fighting Whittaker Instead Of Adesanya

Du Plessis has given his two cents on the scenarios, including the reason why he took the fight with Whittaker over hoping and waiting for a title shot against Adesanya.

“I honestly thought that they would give the title shot immediately, but I wasn’t,” Du Plessis explained. “When they phoned me and said, okay, they wanna do the Whittaker fight, I just said, yes, cool, if that’s what it takes. In honesty, it makes sense to me as well. Now, they’ll put me in a position that I do believe that if they wanted me immediately to be the next startup challenger, which would make sense because Adesanya has faced everybody.

They, in their minds, they have to think that I’m beating Whittaker. Otherwise they want to do the Whittaker trilogy, because Whittaker has never lost to anybody other than Adesanya in this middleweight division. Risky move for, if you look at the UFC’s eyes to put me and Whittaker before the title fight. But to me, it’s not a risky move to me. That’s why I didn’t even hesitate to take the fight. To me, it’s another fight. It’s the guy I need to beat to get to the title, and it’s the guy I’m going to beat to get to the title.”

‘This Will Be The Best Performance Of My Career’

Du Plessis maintains he is here to take the hard road to the UFC title, one that is cemented with a career-best showing against Whittaker.

“There’s obviously an easier route to get to that title shot [than facing Whittaker], but I’m not here to take the easy route. I want to beat Whitaker and I want to prove that I deserve that title shot,” Du Plessis stated. “I don’t want there to be any doubt that when I beat Whitaker, when I get my belt, when I get my title shot, that I deserve to be there. I want to be known that no matter what challenge you put in front of me, I’ll go through it to get to where I want to be. Whittaker is that challenge, that is a massive challenge. But, I will pass that challenge and I will be victorious.

“I think it’s gonna shock a lot of people on how easy I make that look. I honestly believe that this will be the best performance of my career. It has to be, and it will be. It has to be, if you’re gonna beat a guy like Whitaker, it needs to be your best performance so far. I have no doubt that it will be. I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt before. It’s just every fight is a step up. Every fight is I feel better, better, better, better. And this fight will be no different. I’m going to be, like I said, you won’t even recognize the same guy that fought in March against Derek Brunson when I step into that cage next weekend.”

Published on June 30, 2023 at 2:33 pm
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