Dricus du Plessis is ready to have his name in lights at UFC 282

Dricus du Plessis is ready to have his name in lights at UFC 282
Dricus du Plessis of South Africa during a training session ahead of his UFC fight at CIT Performance Institute on 30 September, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

UFC 282 on Sunday morning marks an opportunity for South Africa’s leading MMA fighter, Dricus du Plessis, to make a stamp in the organisation as a serious middleweight title contender.

Exciting South African Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter, Dricus du Plessis (17-2) will take on UFC veteran Darren Till (18-4-1) in the early hours of Saturday morning at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“Finally got the main card — I guess it was by default — but something had to happen,” said Du Plessis who was originally scheduled to fight on the preliminary card but was moved up due to a number of fighters pulling out of the event.

UFC 282 is the last pay-per-view event of the year and Du Plessis’ excitement to participate in it was palpable at the pre-fight media interviews.

Brad Tavares and Dricus Du Plessis

Brad Tavares (right) and Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa exchange strikes in their middleweight bout during UFC 276 at T-Mobile Arena on July 02, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

“This is a big step up. I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity if they didn’t think I was ready. I know I’m ready. This is the next step to becoming the champion and fighting the best of the division,” he said.

“This fight will prove that I’m not only ready but I’m something to be worried about when it comes to the top dogs of the division.”

Two Tills

Du Plessis’ opponent, Till, has built a reputation of pulling out of fights late and starting fights with an ongoing injury, which could have made preparation for the fight tricky for the South African.

Darren Till

In this UFC handout, Darren Till of England poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC Apex on 3 September, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)

“I prepped for the best Darren Till we’ve ever seen. I’ve prepped for a Darren Till that would beat the best Darren Till we’ve seen before,” he said assuredly.

“You can be an asshole or you can be the nicest guy in the world. I’m going to go out there and try to knock you out… It’s nothing personal, it’s just business out there.

 “If he’s carrying an injury? I don’t know but he’s definitely going to be carrying one after the fight.”

Du Plessis also lamented the continued mispronunciation of his name and surname, something he has promised will come to an end after the middleweight bout.

Kelvin Gastelum, Darren Till

Kelvin Gastelum of the United States (left) fights against Darren Till of the United Kingdom in the Middleweight bout during UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden on 2 November, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

“I can’t wait to go out there and perform… This will be the moment where everybody gets my name right”

UFC president Dana White has speculated about the UFC’s plans to host an event in Africa — having had events across Europe and Asia in the past.

Du Plessis didn’t hide his desire for the event to come to Cape Town, South Africa after conjecture that it might be held in Uganda or Nigeria.

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He also shared where he foresees his future in the UFC once the event does come to Africa: “Next year we will have an African champion residing in Africa so that will be amazing,” he said.

‘The future’

For the first time ever, there will be two South Africans fighting at the same UFC pay-per-view event.

With 21-year-old Bantamweight Cameron Saaiman (6-0) — who White dubbed ‘The Future’ after his victory over Josh Wang-Kim at Dana White’s Contender Series — making his UFC debut against Steven Koslow (6-0) in the early prelims.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. He went out there and did what he does. The kid is amazing,” Du Plessis said about Saaiman’s impressive victory over Wang-Kim.

“He looked incredible. The big lights didn’t bother him. He fought like we know he can fight in his first appearance in front of bossman Dana White.”

Du Plessis and Saaiman have known each other for more than six years with Du Plessis acting as Saaiman’s mentor at the CIT Performance gym in Pretoria.

Dricus Du Plessis

Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa is attended to in his middleweight bout against Brad Tavares during UFC 276 at T-Mobile Arena on 2 July, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

“He was 13, I was 21 when we first met. He worked into the gym… he wanted some private lessons but he wanted to train with me specifically,” said Du Plessis.

“And I said I’ll do an hour twice a week. I didn’t want to do the sessions. But after the first day, I saw his determination to improve.”

Du Plessis said the two have gone from a mentor-student relationship to friends and training partners.

“I saw myself in him. Nothing else mattered to him other than becoming a champion in MMA (mixed martial arts). The same with me. That is my life goal, my life purpose. It’s the same with him.

“This guy is amazing. He’s putting in the work… he’s an amazing fighter. I think we’re in for a big treat in his career. I know he’s going to do amazing things come Saturday night.” DM 

Sunday morning fight schedule featuring South African athletes:

Early prelims:

Cameron Saaiman vs Steven Koslow at 1am

Main card:

Dricus du Plessis vs Darren Till at 5am


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