du Plessis: Gastelum ‘took food off my table’ by pulling out of UFC 273

Dricus Du Plessis unhappy with Kelvin Gastelum after UFC 273 fight falls apart.
Dricus Du Plessis unhappy with Kelvin Gastelum after UFC 273 fight falls apart. | Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dricus Du Plessis has his doubts about the injury that knocked Kelvin Gastelum off UFC 273

Dricus du Plessis is without a fight and the 28-year-old middleweight is laying the blame directly at the feet of the injured Kelvin Gastelum.

“It’s his fault,”du Plessis said of Gastelum on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. “He postponed to cancel the fight. Nobody wants to take a fight on a week’s notice. It’s hard to take a fight, especially on a week’s notice. And here Gastelum comes and waits until a week before the fight to all of a sudden say, ‘No, I’m injured,’ when he insisted on a new fight. It’s frustrating and a little bit disrespectful toward opponents and the sport as a whole.”

Du Plessis, who is not among the top-15 fighters in the official UFC middleweight rankings, is 2-0 in the UFC and 16-2 overall. Du Plessis was originally booked to face Chris Curtis at UFC 273. Curtis withdrew from the fight with an injury, but as fate would have it, fellow middleweight Anthony Hernandez also had his opponent, Albert Duraev, drop off the card. The UFC matchmakers then booked that fight. However, with Gastelum losing his original opponent, Nassourdine Imavov, due to visa issues, the UFC reached out to see if du Plessis was interested in stepping in to face Gastelum.

According to du Plessis, he accepted the matchup without hesitation.

“Damn straight, I’ll take that fight,” Du Plessis said of his reply to the UFC’s inquiry. “That’s who I’m supposed to be fighting anyway.”

Not long after that call, du Plessis received the news that Gastelum was out of the fight. He did not take the news well.

“I thought it was April Fool’s,” du Plessis said of his reaction. “You guys are screwing around. What’s happening?”

Gastelum did not disclose the injury that forced him to withdraw from Saturday’s event in Jacksonville. At first, he only said he was “compromised” and unable to compete.

“Who gets an injury a week before a fight?” du Plessis asked. “What could you possibly be doing to get injured, and if he was injured, you don’t know what the camp was like, but why would he insist on having a new opponent when he had to pull out? … So he wasn’t injured on Monday, because that’s [when] he insisted on the fight, and all of a sudden, he’s injured on Friday? That sounds very fishy to me.

“I guess they started watching tape and that’s where the problems started, to be honest. … He really needs a win – let’s not beat around the bush, he needs a win – and this is a great opportunity for him. He’s fighting a guy who’s making some noise, a South African guy, he’s ranked No. 20, and he finds out, let’s get this easy fight and get in the win column. … Then he watched the tape and realized this is no walkover fight.”

On Monday night, John Morgan reported that he had spoken to Gastelum’s manager, who told him the former interim UFC middleweight title challenger would undergo knee surgery next week.

Du Plessis could not get back into the Hernandez fight, as the UFC had already matched Hernandez against Josh Fremd. Losing the fight and the time and money he spent preparing for UFC 273 did not sit well with du Plessis.

“I’m not angry at the UFC; it’s a little bit out of their control, to be honest,” he said. “I’m angry at Kelvin. No disrespect, I’ve always been a fan, but right now, what he did was he literally took food off my table. I don’t even care about the money. I was in there to become a champion as soon as possible, to get in that top-10, and he took my opportunity to perform. He took it away from me – he took the eight weeks of hard, intense training, my 12 weeks in camp – he took all that away from me, all the hard work, everything that was spent from coaches to nutritionists, everything that put in some sort of effort to get to this point. He took that away because he didn’t feel like fighting. He didn’t like the risk, and he made me give up my opponent.

“It’s his fault. He postponed to cancel the fight. Nobody wants to take a fight on a week’s notice. It’s hard to take a fight, especially on a week’s notice. And here Gastelum comes and waits until a week before the fight to all of a sudden say, ‘No, I’m injured,’ when he insisted on a new fight. It’s frustrating and a little bit disrespectful toward opponents and the sport as a whole.”

UFC 273 takes place Saturday, April 9 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+.

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Author: Trent Reinsmith
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