Ahead of their showdown on Saturday, reigning UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland issued a warning to du Plessis to avoid any further trash talk related to the trauma he suffered as a child. In fact, Strickland went as far as threatening “I will f****** stab you” if that actually happens.
In response, du Plessis could only crack a smile and laugh at the comment, but it’s clear he’s not losing any sleep over a possible attack prior to their fight.
“I don’t know, that’s pretty intense,” du Plessis said during UFC 297 media day. “I don’t know the legislation around here but that seems like Team Strickland needs to check their boy.
“When this whole thing occurred where he said ‘if you do that again’ he said he will kill me. He didn’t say stab me. When he said kill, I said OK, you’re probably going to shoot me then. When I saw a knife, I’m like no, that’s not going to work. You won’t touch me with that knife. I’ll knock you out way before you get to stab me.”
Strickland also stated that he was willing to sacrifice the fight if that’s what it took to go after du Plessis if he crossed the line. As much as he doubts Strickland will actually attempt to stab him, du Plessis admits there was some concern that his opponent might actually torpedo the fight just so they don’t actually have to meet in the octagon at UFC 297.
“Am I scared that he self-sabotages this fight? Sure. That is something I’ve thought about,” du Plessis said. “Maybe trying everything to get out of it but no, for me right now, the last press conference was winning on the mic. That was winning with Sean Strickland at his own game. Right now, this week where we’re at, I’m not here to do that. I’m here to be the middleweight champion of the world. My focus is on fighting, not making jokes.
“Getting the crowd to laugh, that’s not why I’m here. I’ve already won that battle. That battle is won. Right now, the battle that needs to be won is the one coming Saturday night and that’s where my mind’s at.”
After the initial encounter at a press conference to promote their fight, Strickland actually did attack du Plessis in the crowd with both in attendance at UFC 296 in Las Vegas.
Strickland later revealed that he sent du Plessis a direct message on Twitter to address the altercation as well as the nasty trash talk between them.
For his part, du Plessis confirmed the exchange on social media, although he never planned to address it publicly until Strickland suddenly started talking about it.
“[The message] said something along the lines of ‘listen, this is what happened, I’m sorry what I said about your coach and you but if there’s anything that’s crossing the line and listen, we sell a fight and all that but if there’s anything out of line that I said that you want me to pull back, I’ll apologize, I’ll even take back what I said. I’ll remove posts,’” du Plessis revealed.
“I feel this is not a great move, but he brought it up. I would have never told the media about this. This happened five weeks ago. I don’t want to expose a man in that way. It’s not my style. I was actually surprised that he made it public that he did message me because I didn’t want to out him on that.”
As far as continued low blows, du Plessis confirms he responded to Strickland and promised that he wouldn’t bring up his childhood trauma again.
That said, du Plessis still doesn’t really care much at all about what Strickland says to him — privately or publicly.
“He said if there’s anything he shouldn’t say, he’ll lay back but if I bring up anything with his childhood again, he said ‘I’ll kill you and ruin your life and mine way before we step into the cage’ something like that,” du Plessis said. “That’s exactly his words. So I’m like OK, this poor guy. This seems serious. I feel bad for him. I just replied and said ‘listen, there’s nothing you can say that has any affect on me. Go crazy.’
“There’s nothing he can say that can get under my skin. I’m the mentally strongest fighter in the world, and I told him, you can literally say whatever you want, all is fair in love and war. But I won’t say anything about your childhood again, cool. That’s how it came down.”