UFC 297: Footage of sparring between Israel Adesanya and Dricus Du Plessis shows the origins of the rivalry

Israel Adesanya took to social media over the weekend to share footage of a clash with Dricus Du Plessis in 2016, when the two clashed while sparring.

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

Adesanya was originally scheduled to defend the title against Du Plessis in September, but he suffered an injury and was replaced by Strickland. Du Plessis’ 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’ first challenger after the Nigerian-New Zealand player launched an explosive tirade at Du Plessis last July. Adesanya confronted Du Plessis in the cage after the latter’s surprise defeat of Robert Whittaker and contradicted his claim that he wanted to become the first Africa-based UFC champion.

On the likelihood of a fight with Du Plessis, Adesanya wrote on X on Sunday (January 21): “This arc in my story was written a long time ago. Our paths will cross again. Stay tuned for the next episode, thanks for watching. We are making history.”

Along with these words, Adesanya shared a clip from 2016 that shows him accidentally colliding with Du Plessis during a sparring session where 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 was nice to watch. I thought, Dricus, I thought he would use his wrestling more in the middle of the rounds, but he used it at the end, which was smart of him to steal the rounds. My “guess” while watching: (rounds) three, four, five, he did it.

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

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

Adesanya later said he was taking a break from MMA, but he is expected to return to action in the second half of 2024. Du Plessis, 30, welcomed a fight against the “Last Stylebender” at UFC 300 in April, but the event will likely come too soon for Adesanya.

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