In an exclusive interview covered by the Mail & Guardian on October 19, Dricus Du Plessis, the South African MMA sensation, shed light on his journey to UFC stardom. His path is marked by hard-fought battles, determination, and an unyielding spirit.
Du Plessis made a spectacular debut on the pay-per-view stage in July 2021 during the Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier UFC event. He delivered a stunning knockout win against Trevin Giles and then made a bold proclamation to UFC commentator Joe Rogan: "Dricus du Plessis. Remember the name. It will be a household name in the top 10 very soon."
Since that moment, Du Plessis has experienced a meteoric rise in the middleweight division, claiming four consecutive victories. He reached the number one middleweight ranking in July, securing his place among the division's elite after defeating former champion Robert Whittaker.
The Mail & Guardian had the opportunity to visit the CIT Performance Institute, where Du Plessis hones his skills. Fighters at the institute embrace the grind, with their daily regimen epitomizing the "blood, sweat, and tears" cliché. However, Du Plessis's presence brings a new level of energy and commitment to the gym. As the team captain at CIT, he sets high standards, demanding the best from his teammates and leading by example.
Du Plessis emphasized the importance of maintaining a strong team culture, stating, "I expect the best from all of my teammates and they expect the same from me. I believe that in order to bring the best out of them, I need to be an example. At the end of the day, we do fight for this team and we do fight for each other."
As a testament to his growth in the sport, Du Plessis displayed his striking prowess during the visit, a skill that has significantly improved during his UFC tenure. He acknowledged the pivotal role played by the CIT in his development, expressing pride in the gym's global recognition in the world of mixed martial arts.
Du Plessis's journey has inspired young fighters, with his success serving as a beacon for aspiring talent. He is the first South African mixed martial artist to achieve prominence in the UFC. Some youngsters at the gym have dedicated their lives to MMA after witnessing the achievements of Du Plessis and another South African UFC fighter, Cameron Saaiman.
Du Plessis recalled his own inspirations when he was starting out, crediting local fighters like Leon Mynhardt and Michiel Opperman, both former EFC champions. His coach, Morné Visser, who also coached Mynhardt and Opperman, played a significant role in his success.
The turning point in Du Plessis's career came in 2018 when he was invited to the United States to help UFC fighters prepare for their bouts. This experience instilled in him the belief that he could compete at the highest level. "You see these guys fight on TV, they look huge, and then you realize that they're not bigger than me and they are not that much better," he said.
In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, Du Plessis received a call for a fight on just ten days' notice. Despite being out of ideal shape due to the lockdown, he seized the opportunity and secured a knockout victory in the first round, solidifying his position as the number one ranked middleweight in the world.
Du Plessis has consistently displayed his dominance in the Octagon, with most of his fights ending before they reach the distance. One memorable contest against Brad Tavares earned acclaim from the UFC commentary team, highlighting its intense nature. Du Plessis described it as his favorite fight as a fan, recalling it as an extraordinary battle of willpower.
Despite his achievements, Du Plessis remains focused on his journey. After a six-fight winning streak, a fight was announced between him and Robert Whittaker for the number one contender spot, with the winner slated to face middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. However, a foot injury forced Du Plessis to forfeit the opportunity, and Adesanya eventually lost the title to Sean Strickland.
Du Plessis expressed initial frustration with the situation, given his track record and commitment to the UFC. However, he has since moved past it, eager for his next fight to regain his path to the title. Whether against Adesanya or another opponent, his goal remains clear: to become the best fighter in the world and achieve the middleweight championship by the end of 2024.
Beyond that, Du Plessis aspires to conquer the light heavyweight division and join the elite group of fighters who have become two-division world champions in UFC history—a testament to his unwavering determination and ambition in the world of MMA.
(Source: Original Article - Mail & Guardian)