The Anaheim, Calif.-born Strickland shocked the world at UFC 293 this past September with his unanimous decision upset win over two-time middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Putting on a defensive masterclass, Strickland proved to the world he was an elite-level 185-pound fighter and now prepares for his first title defense.
Standing in Strickland’s way will be the proud South African and No. 2 ranked contender in the UFC’s official rankings, Dricus Du Plessis. “Stillknocks” was originally expected to get Strickland’s opportunity against Adesanya after a massive upset TKO of Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 in July. Unfortunately for Du Plessis, a nagging foot injury prevented the turnaround, but everything worked out in his favor despite Khamzat Chimaev’s emergence at UFC 294 last month.
“I think Dricus is like so awkward he’s good,” Strickland said on his YouTube channel. “Where it’s like, you know, I’m a million times better than him, I spar guys he’s fought, I know who he is. But he’s so awkward he’s good. It’s gonna be a f***ing war. He’ll be a tougher fight than Chimaev.
“Chimaev, he doesn’t f***ing deserve it. We all know that. The only reason why Chimaev gets that shot is because he sells a lot of tickets. That’s it.”
Chimaev recently returned to the middleweight division with the intent of climbing the ranks when he defeated former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman by a majority decision. The win placed “Borz” at No. 8 in the official UFC rankings but still left him without a win over a ranked contender in the division.
The undefeated superstar Chimaev has reportedly been dealing with a hand or wrist injury that came from the Usman fight, which could have played a factor in him missing out on the title shot. UFC CEO Dana White stated before the matchup that the winner would face Strickland. On Tuesday, Strickland’s manager at Iridium Sport’s Agency Lance Spauder told MMA Mania that the Chimaev bout was “never even brought up” in discussions for UFC 297.
Ultimately, Strickland is content with the purity of the direction the promotion went.
“At the end of the day, man, I’m happy with Dricus,” Strickland said. “It’s gonna be a hell of a fight, and I’m just happy the UFC is doing the right thing.
“He’s next in line, he f***ing deserves it. They’ve been doing a lot of f***ery lately with rankings and bulls***. Just f***ing wrong, man. We need to go back to a professional sport where rankings matter because as of now, rankings mean f***-all s***.”
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I would be extremely hyped for either Strickland vs. Du Plessis or Chimaev, but I think the matchup we’re getting is undeniably the most logical. Stylistically, it should be pretty chaotic, too. You know what you get with both guys and they just don’t slow down. Great way to start 2024.
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