Las Vegas, NV — UFC President Dana White has historically been against having fighters face-off in the cage following fights, a tried and true method of promoting “the next one” following big match-ups.
So it’s no shock to hear that he was against the idea of bringing middleweight champion Israel Adesanya into the octagon following Dricus Du Plessis’ big win at UFC 290. In the end, however, it was Adesanya getting his way.
“Well there was a big debate over it. I didn’t want to do it,” White admitted during Saturday’s post-fight press conference, with Cageside Press in attendance. “First of all, what I don’t like to do is when you have somebody like Du Plessis, who just, big win for him, he just beat the second best guy in the world in that division. And then somebody’s going to get in their face and get aggressive with then when they just had a war.”
“Adesanya and I had a debate over it, and he promised me nothing crazy was going to happen, so we did it.”
Du Plessis put away former champ Robert Whittaker by TKO, surprising many and securing himself a title shot against “The Last Stylebender” in the process. And there was Adesanya, waiting in the wings after the biggest win of his rival’s career, bad blood already brewing after Dricus Du Plessis previously called himself the African fighter in the UFC.
Adesanya is Nigerian by heritage and by birth, but resides in New Zealand. Ahead of UFC 285, South Africa’s Du Plessis told Cageside Press during a media day appearance that “I’m the African fighter in the UFC. Myself and Cameron [Saaiman, Du Plessis’ teammate], we breathe African air. We wake up in Africa every day. We train in Africa, we’re African born, we’re African raised. We still reside in Africa, we train out of Africa. That’s an African champion, and that’s who I’ll be.”
Du Plessis is white. Adesanya is black. And what emerged from their UFC 290 face-off was a rather uncomfortable storyline, one very much filled with racial undertones. Adesanya dropped multiple N-bombs while addressing Du Plessis, while at another point calling him “my African brother.” “I’m African, but I ain’t no brother of yours,” Du Plessis retorted, asking what the champ had to say to the people of New Zealand.
— Jmag (@jmagings) July 9, 2023
South Africa’s history, with apartheid only ending in the early 90s, is difficult to ignore in this context. Adesanya knows this, and it may have colored his response. Regardless, the possibility of opening old wounds that never fully healed runs high, even though it’s unlikely Du Plessis’ intent.
White, however, was dismissive of the racial concerns. “What were the racial undertones?” he questioned; after being told of the multiple n-bombs, White added “Who did? Who dropped it, Izzy? He’s black. Okay, he’s black. Who gives a sh*t?”
“I could care less. This is the fight business. Israel Adesanya can say whatever he wants to say,” White fired back. “Are people bitching about it? Of course they are. Too f*cking bad.”
Watch the full UFC 290 post-fight press conference with Dana White above.