The entirety of the UFC 290 main card, plus featured prelim players Nico Price and Robbie Lawler, assembled at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday for the event’s pre-fight press conference.
Among those receiving a less than rosy reception was middleweight Dricus Du Plessis, booked into what amounts to a title eliminator with ex-champ Robert Whittaker.
Neither Du Plessis, from South Africa, nor Whittaker, an Australian, are fighting at home on the Las Vegas-based card. But “The Reaper” Whittaker (or “Bobby Knuckles” if you prefer) has long been a fan favorite.
Popular sentiment aside — Du Plessis mimed playing conductor as the fans serenaded him with boos on Thursday — the South African contender wanted to set the record straight during the UFC 290 presser. While Robert Whittaker has called him a man with nothing to lose, Du Plessis himself pointed out that he has plenty hanging in the balance, primarily his title aspirations.
“Fighting a guy like Robert Whittaker, having nothing to lose, that’s actually BS. I have everything to lose,” Du Plessis exclaimed. “I have a goal to being champion of the world, and Robert Whittaker is the next step in that ladder. It’s a very very very tall order, but I believe I did everything I possibly could and I know I’m ready to overcome this obstacle, to get to the next stage and be that number one contender.”
“So having nothing to lose? I have absolutely everything to lose. And you’ll see how I fight like somebody with everything to lose on Saturday night.”
In Whittaker, Dricus Du Plessis believes he may have a tougher test than the man who is champ, Israel Adesanya.
“I 100% believe that Robert Whittaker has a more all-around skill set than Israel Adesanya,” Du Plessis explained. Adesanya, Du Plessis added, “has his own style, which he’s incredibly good at it, that’s why he’s right now at the top as one of the greatest middleweights ever, if not the greatest.”
Against Whittaker, however, Du Plessis feels he has a title fight in a sense. “Whittaker, this is my title fight. Whittaker is the most important fight in my mind, and that’s how I see it. Beating Robert Whittaker will immediately show that this is a new threat. Because that has never happened before other than Israel Adesanya in the past decade. And that’s why I’m here to show that I am the next and future middleweight champion.”
Whittaker has not tasted defeat against anyone other than Adesanya since his welterweight run, specifically a fight with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in 2014. So Dricus Du Plessis most certainly has his work cut out for him.