UFC: Israel Adesanya responds to call-out from newly crowned middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis

Adesanya and du Plessis square off at UFC 290.
Adesanya and du Plessis square off at UFC 290. Photo credit: Getty Images

No sooner had new middleweight champion Dricus du Plessis had his new belt wrapped around his waist at UFC 297 than he identified the opponent he wanted for his first title defence - and the candidate comes as little surprise.

Du Plessis became the first South African UFC world champion with a split-decision win over Sean Strickland, ensuring a short title reign for the American, who shocked the mixed martial arts world with his shutout win over Israel Adesanya to claim the belt at September's UFC 293.

Du Plessis was originally slated as Adesanya's opponent that day at Sydney, until injury forced him out of the bout, opening the door for Strickland on late notice.

The result sets the stage perfectly for a grudge match against 'The Last Stylebender', with the two trading barbs across social media over the past year. 

Adesanya - whose family immigrated to New Zealand when he was 10 years old - took exception with du Plessis' claims that he's the "real African" fighting in the UFC.

The beef boiled over to a heated, expletive-laden confrontation inside the Octagon after Du Plessis' win over Robert Whittaker at UFC 290.

Dricus du Plessis celebrates his title win.
Dricus du Plessis celebrates his title win. Photo credit: Getty Images

After an emotional outpouring at the announcement of the judges' decision, 'Stillknocks' laid down the gauntlet to Adesanya.

"There was another guy who tried to take my shine," said du Plessis. "He lost his shine and now I have your shine.

"He didn't get into the cage tonight, but Israel Adesanya, get your ass back in the UFC, so we can settle the score."

After his shock loss to Strickland, Adesanya announced he'd take time off from competition to take a breath, after a stretch as one of the UFC's most active fighters. 

He has responded to du Plessis' challenge on social media, suggesting the two rivals will have a chance to settle their score soon.

"This arc in my story was written long ago," Adesanya wrote, sharing video of a joint training session and their altercation at UFC 290.

"Our paths are destined to cross again. Stay tuned for the next episode, thanks for watching.  

"We Write History."

The promotion's milestone UFC 300 event in April is currently without a headline fight, and a contest between Du Plessis and Adesanya would seem to suit that bill perfectly.

Du Plessis has reiterated his intentions, insisting the match-up made the most sense, while playing down any sense of animosity between the two.

"It's not personal at all," he said. "That's just the fight the fans want to see.

"I want to fight the best competition. There's a lot of guys I'm going to be fighting, but the fans want to see Israel Adesanya v Dricus du Plessis.

"There's a lot of hype that was already built on it. I don't care who it is, but that's just the fight on top of my head that I think the people want to see and would get a lot of people excited."

UFC boss Dana White supports the suggestion as the logical next bout for both fighters, but says he'll need to check on Adesanya's status. An announcement could be made during the coming week.

Du Plessis calls the proposition "amazing", although the quick turnaround to April, after sustaining plenty of damage in his five-round duel with Strickland, could prove an issue.