Dricus du Plessis has no regrets over Sean Strickland trash talk: ‘Mr. Moral Compass doesn’t decide where the line is’

Dricus du Plessis has no regrets about his role in the bad blood that’s developed with Sean Strickland.

This Saturday, du Plessis challenges Strickland for the middleweight title in the main event of UFC 297. Initially, the two men didn’t have much to say about one another, but things have taken a dramatic turn over the past month after a heated press conference in December that snowballed into a full-blown brawl while cageside at UFC 296. In the aftermath of the incident, some have wondered if the trash talk between the two went too far, but du Plessis isn’t buying it.

“I don’t regret anything,” du Plessis said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I said what I said. Listen, if you’re dishing it out, you’re going to get it. I’m not going to keep on hammering on it, but I stand by what I said. I did not joke about it. What happened was fact. I stated fact. He joked about it, in previous interviews. I didn’t joke about it, I stated the facts. Obviously, it had a massive effect on him. I won’t be hammering on that because it’s not necessary. I got the results I wanted. I don’t need to hammer on one thing.

“Obviously, it’s terrible that it happened to him, but it did. Don’t project onto others what you don’t want to happen to you. That’s the way it is. He disrespected me, disrespected my coach, and I won’t let that slide. So take that and now we’re on a clean page. We start over. It’s strictly business. Nothing’s personal. I have no animosity towards him. I said what I said, what happened, happened, there’s no animosity, from my side at least. I’m here to do my business. I’m here to win a fight.”

While du Plessis and Strickland traded barbs at the press conference, things escalated when the South African fighter made incendiary comments about Strickland’s childhood trauma, says he would “beat the s*** out of” Strickland worse than his father used to, setting the middleweight champion off. In an interview earlier this year, Strickland recounted that childhood trauma, claiming that “there are some things that are off limits” when it comes to trash talk, but du Plessis argues this is pure hypocrisy.

“He had a lot to say about Khalil Rountree, and he said how weak of a man Khalil is for crying,” du Plessis said. “He did the exact same thing, just on a bigger stage. Not talking about somebody’s wife. I’m assuming because he has somebody in his life now, that became a thing. He didn’t care about Ian Garry’s wife when he said what he said. It wasn’t his place to say anything, but whatever.

“He’s a funny character. I actually quite enjoy him. The hypocrisy is what made me — that was the one area where people could lose respect for Sean Strickland, because he’s always unapologetically himself. But as soon as he got his own medicine, as soon as he was on the receiving end for the very first time, when I got on that mic, we saw him backpedal and try to play for sympathy. He wanted sympathy. He was acting like he had that victim mentality immediately. You can’t do that if you say the things you say. Talking about people who can’t dodge busses on a fighter who died. Is that not over the line? You, Mr. Moral Compass, doesn’t decide where the line is. He doesn’t have the right to decide where that line is. Now, all of a sudden, the line is where he wants it to be? No. I don’t think so.”

And by that same token, du Plessis says that’s why he never got upset about Strickland attacking him in the crowd at UFC 296: Because he was asking for it.

“Obviously, things work a little bit differently in the United States versus South Africa,” du Plessis said. “In South Africa, that’s a good old Friday night out. And not even a very good one. People would be very disappointed if that was the fight they saw in a bar.

“It never even occurred to me [to press charges]. Live by the sword, die by the sword. If you’re looking for trouble and get it, don’t go crying to mama and looking to open up a case or to sue anybody. If you’re looking for trouble and you get it, it’s your bed, you made it.”

As for this week, Strickland believes things might be a little less explosive than some expect. He and Strickland will have another pre-fight press conference and a few faceoffs, but du Plessis says that his energy is different this week, as he’s all business.

“I’ll be ready for whatever he tries with me,” du Plessis said. “When I go to these press conferences, I never plan, ‘Oh, I’m going to say this, say that!’ That’s not the way. It’s on the spot. I think it’s going to be a lot more civil, but maybe he comes out guns blazing, who knows? But I think it will be a lot more civil because in my mind, that first press conference was joking around. That was me having a lot of fun. I’m not in that zone anymore. I’m in the fight zone now. I’m ready to go. I’m here to win a world title. I’m not here to make jokes. I’m here to be a world champion.”

UFC 297 takes place this Saturday at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

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