But two of the men most involved in the decision don’t entirely agree.
“You know how much I love when guys turn down fights,” White said in Las Vegas following the promotion’s latest Contender Series event. “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens on Saturday and then we’ll go from there.”
Adesanya, 34, and Strickland are set to face off in UFC 293’s main event, which takes place at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia. The bout marks Adesanya’s first defense of his belt since recapturing it with a highlight-reel revenge knockout of Alex Pereira in April.
Both the UFC and Adesanya initially targeted a grudge match against Du Plessis for the event, however the South African fighter was unable to make a quick turnaround following his breakout win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 this past July. With his stunning second-round knockout of Whittaker, Du Plessis became the first middleweight to defeat the former champion other than Adesanya since Whittaker’s 2014 move into the division.
Du Plessis is currently MMA Fighting’s No. 2 ranked middleweight in the world, behind only Adesanya, and is a perfect 6-0 with five stoppages since entering the UFC in 2020. “DDP” and Adesanya also have one of the fieriest rivalries currently raging in MMA, and their eventually showdown is expected to be one of the biggest bouts on the sport’s calendar.
Nonetheless, Adesanya understands where White is coming from.
“Dricus doesn’t know how to play the game,” Adesanya said at UFC 293 media day. “Look, you can’t sit on your f******, is it ranking or whatever, and think you’ve got it locked in. This is the UFC. If you look back at the history of the UFC, s*** happens.
“So he thought he was sitting pretty, but he might have to fight two more times before I get a shot at this. But he doesn’t call the shots. I do. I need you to understand that. I call the shots. You don’t call the shot, dickless. You need to understand this. You can sit pretty wherever you want, but if I decide to, I might give [the title shot] to whoever wins between [Paulo] Costa and Khamzat [Chimaev on Oct. 21 at UFC 294], not you.”