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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Sport
Matt Erickson and Abbey Subhan

Dricus Du Plessis’ blunt assessment of Dana White’s UFC 297 scorecard for Sean Strickland: ‘Bullsh*t’

TORONTO – New middleweight champion Dricus Du Plessis didn’t mince words when he heard his boss thought he lost the UFC 297 main event.

Du Plessis (21-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC) took a split decision from Sean Strickland (28-6 MMA, 15-6 UFC) in the headliner in Toronto to win the belt. It was Strickland’s first attempted title defense after he upset Israel Adesanya to win the belt in 2023. Du Plessis became the first South African champ in UFC history.

But UFC CEO Dana White said he had the fight even going into the fifth round, then scored that last frame for Strickland. The three cageside judges had two 48-47 cards for Du Plessis; a dissenting judge had it 48-47 for Strickland.

The three judges, however, were unanimous in four of the five rounds: All three gave Rounds 1 and 5 to Strickland, and all three gave Rounds 2 and 4 to Du Plessis. That left the middle round as the decisive one, and Du Plessis took that from two of the three judges.

When asked at his post-fight news conference at Scotiabank Arena about the closeness of the fight, and that some had it the other way, Du Plessis appeared more than a little perturbed White thought he lost.

“Just for the record, are there some people who think I lost the fight?” Du Plessis asked the room of media members. “Dana said it? Well, bullsh*t.”

White did, however, say the fight was close and that as many people sitting near him in Toronto seemed to have it for Du Plessis as those who scored the bout for Strickland.

White also said Du Plessis’ new status as champion could fast-track the UFC’s ambition to put on a fight on the continent of Africa for the first time. With Du Plessis in the mix, in all likelihood that would be in the South African capital city of Johannesburg.

That’s one good piece of news for Du Plessis – though he also said he’s interested in fighting at UFC 300 in April on a quick turnaround. His intention, he said, is to hold the middleweight title for a long enough time that he’ll eventually fight in his home country again.

The enjoyment of his win over Strickland might have to be short if he wants to be back in less than three months. But Du Plessis acknowledged he won a close fight and will relish the victory for a bit.

“It was a close fight, make no mistake – but I thought I had it” Du Plessis said. “When that split decision came, I thought, ‘This is, 100 percent, 50-50 (if I win or lose).’ When they said ‘And new …,’ it felt like 15 years of work and sacrifice together in one single sentence. It feels surreal. It’s amazing.

“I thought I did enough to win the fight. It definitley was a close fight. He won the first round and I made the necessary adjustments. … At the end of the day, I went toe-to-toe with the self-proclaimed best boxer in the UFC.”

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

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