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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Farah Hannoun

Daniel Cormier praises Dricus Du Plessis’ performance at UFC 297, admits he never thought he would be champion

Dricus Du Plessis surpassed Daniel Cormier’s expectations.

Du Plessis (21-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC) dethroned Sean Strickland (28-6 MMA, 15-6 UFC) by split decision to become middleweight champion in Saturday’s UFC 297 headliner at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Looking at the landscape at 185 pounds, Cormier is surprised to see Du Plessis on the throne. The South African fighter is unbeaten in the octagon.

“The amount of fight parties they had in South Africa to watch this guy is crazy,” Cormier said on his YouTube channel. “The entire country exploded when he became champion. I’ll tell you this: I never thought that we’d be here today where Dricus Du Plessis is the middleweight champion of the world. I didn’t know, but as he told me earlier in the weekend, as I now understand, he does things his own way.

“I am learning, even though I’ve been in this game for a long time, that all mixed martial arts doesn’t look the same. Sometimes it looks different, and Dricus Du Plessis looks different. But, as I now have gained an appreciation for his style, I know what it looks like to me now. It looks like a champion of the world, because that’s exactly what Dricus is.”

Du Plessis challenged former champion Israel Adesanya after the fight. Considering their history, Cormier thinks it’s the fight to make.

“I’m very interested to see what happens next, though,” Cormier said. “I want to see if they try to turn him around for UFC 300 to maybe fight (Khamzat) Chimaev or maybe fight (Israel) Adesanya. After that uncomfortable interaction inside the octagon with Adesanya, I’m all in on that one.

“I know there are going to be a lot of people that go, ‘Why would Izzy deserve a championship opportunity?’ Well, sometimes it’s about the story and Izzy and Dricus have a story that’s already written. I’m also interested to see what happens to Sean Strickland now as he tries to rebuild himself into a championship contender or a UFC champion once again.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.

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