CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis aims to become the first African-born, bred and based UFC champion.
Du Plessis will continue his quest this weekend after landing a hot slot on the much-anticipated sold-out Dustin Poirier versus Conor McGregor trilogy card playing out at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, and Dricus (15-2) is super amped at the thought of bringing that golden Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight belt back to the Motherland in the future.
“Look, I am not naive. You have to travel the world to see what people are busy with, you can always learn something from everybody, that is why we do it,” says Dricus who will fight American Trevin Giles (14-2) on the prelim card on Sunday.
“I go to the USA or Thailand for a month or two, but when my camp starts, I come back home. My coaches, my team, they’ve been there from the beginning. They got me where I am. They made me a three-time world champion, they got me into the UFC, there is no reason for me not to be here,” says the CIT Performance Institute athlete who will compete in his second UFC bout following an impressive knockout win over Brazil’s Markus Perez (12-5) last year in a short-notice debut fight.
“I think we have something very, very special. I think South Africa and Africa both have something very special and I am glad to see African champions getting crowned in the UFC all over.”
The UFC currently has three African-born champions - Cameroon’s Francis Ngannou (heavyweight champion), Nigerian-born Israel Adesanya (middleweight champion) and Kamaru Usman (welterweight champion).
Francis made a tough transition to France from Cameroon a few years back prior to making Las Vegas, USA his base, while Kamaru and Israel were still very young when their families moved to the United States and New Zealand respectively.
“It’s almost like an African takeover is starting,” says Dricus, who wants to put Team CIT on the map.
“It’s a very big privilege for me to be training and living in South Africa. My hometown, my home gym and my fight camp is all right here and we are going all the way with this just like Conor did with SBG. Nobody knew his gym until he came on the scene. He believed in his team and I feel exactly the same way.
“I am not hating on any of the current African champions.
“Good on them if they made a better life elsewhere. They are African-born, that is their heritage and their right, 100%. But to say that you are fighting out of Africa like the guys do, and you’ve been living in another country your whole life, that is basically riding the train in my opinion, and I just feel that the fans know, feel and see, and obviously there is proof that I am going to be the first real African-born UFC champion. I was born here, I live here, I have never lived anywhere else, this is my home, South Africa is my home country, this is my home continent, and that is exactly what I meant by it and I am sticking with that.”
Dricus forms part of a strong contingent of African athletes on the UFC roster, but he is only joined by a small list of athletes who actually train out of Africa.
Fellow South African, Don Madge and Democratic Republic of Congo’s Dalcha Lungiambula are two of them.
Dricus faces a higher-ranked opponent in Giles and a win over the American could stand the South African's career in good stead, especially with so many eyes being on this huge card which will see the UFC's biggest star and global sporting icon, Ireland's McGregor try and claim back another win over American Dustin Poirier in their lightweight main event rematch following Dustin's second-round knockout in January this year. The winner of that bout will most likely face UFC lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira for the title.
The fight card will be available on SuperSport this weekend with Dricus’ fight airing live from 12am on SuperSport Variety 3, Grandstand and Action. The main card will start at 4am on Sunday.