Manager: Israel Adesanya ‘very upset’ to not be fighting at UFC 300

Israel Adesanya missed out on a chance to fight on one of the biggest cards in UFC history, and he wasn’t happy about it.

Saturday’s UFC 300 event features a stacked lineup with a number of current and former champions. But Adesanya, who’s twice held the UFC’s middleweight title, isn’t one of them. Adesanya has previously said he wanted to fight champion Dricus du Plessis, but du Plessis was unable to make the April 13 date after a five-round battle with Sean Strickland at UFC 297 this past January.

Du Plessis confirmed that he made the call not to fight Adesanya at UFC 300, and that decision irked “The Last Stylebender,” according to manager Tim Simpson.

“Israel was very upset that he didn’t do it,” Simpson said of Adesanya on The MMA Hour. “Israel, kind of concurrent discussions of [him and fellow Simpson client Leon Edwards], so I was like, ‘S***, one of them’s going to end up [not being on the card].’ He was ready to go. I don’t think they would have done both of them. It would have been great. … He was ready, he was in. [Du Plessis for the belt] is what they were working on.

“I believe Dricus was not ready. I think he had some sort of procedure after the last fight. Again, this is what’s been put publicly by Israel and [coach] Eugene [Bareman]. But yeah, he really, really wanted it. He was upset. He wanted to be here and do it, he really, really wanted to do it. He loves big moments, the title fight coming back. That one came down to the wire, down to, I’d say, within a few hours before they announced [Jamahal] Hill and [Alex] Pereira, I was texting [UFC executive] Hunter [Campbell] and couldn’t get it done on Dricus’ side, but Izzy was ready to go.”

When they were told that du Plessis was unavailable, Simpsons team considered targeting a trilogy bout with longtime Adesanya rival and current light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira, but no discussions actually occurred.

Simpson remains confident Adesanya can book a title fight against du Plessis on the upcoming UFC 305 card on Aug. 17 in Perth. But he expects to wait for it to become official as the UFC finalizes its next wave of pay-per-views.

“Hopefully,” Simpson said of Adesanya finally facing off with du Plessis. “I think they’re both—obviously, this week’s massive—I think they’ll announce venues, but procedurally they like to announce fights in chronological order.

“So I think they’ve got to lock in whatever’s happening in June, whatever’s happening in July, and then go to August, but I can’t see why you wouldn’t do it. Both guys say they’re interested, it makes sense. South Africa’s very close to Perth—it’s a direct flight.”

Adesanya is coming off of a self-imposed hiatus following a disappointing loss to Strickland this past September that cost him the middleweight belt. Regardless, Simpson is confident his client can step right back into a title shot, especially since he believes there’s more than enough support for the grudge match.

“It’s obvious, no?” Simpson said. “Hate is so visceral online. It’s much easier to hear negativity online than it is to hear positivity. But I think if you could somehow take a real life poll, the vast majority of people would say, ‘Yeah, that’s the right fight.’ Online, it’s easy to focus on the negative. Sure, that opinion may be heard, but I think the actual opinion of fight fans, the people interested, would be overwhelmingly it’s Adesanya, right?”