Robert Whittaker said that Sean Strickland and Dricus du Plessis’s chaotic altercation in the UFC 296 audience seemed to have been “staged.”
The Australian lost to Du Plessis in his last bout. He witnessed tumultuous scenes on Saturday night as two middleweight competitors who will compete for the title at UFC 297 next year exchanged punches.
Dana White later admitted that placing the rivals so near to one another in the seating arrangement was the result of his own ignorance.
Former champion Robert Whittaker’s skepticism adds fuel to the debate, questioning the legitimacy of the brawl.
Whittaker expressed his take on the MMArcade podcast: “I thought it was staged, mate, honestly. Because it was weird. It was weird the way it happened. You saw the way Strickland was like, ‘Move aside, please.’”
Expressing his uncertainty, Whittaker hints at the possibility of the brawl being orchestrated for entertainment purposes.
“Makes sense, but then he jumps in like WWE style. The way he was punching, the way he was kind of like, I don’t know, fake punching to the back of Dricus. Maybe it was just for entertainment, and which case, you can’t really give him anything for it. I don’t know. It’s a bit silly. He’s the champ.”
“It was a weird little scuffle, I am gonna say. I also heard him talking smack about me in the press conference. I don’t think it was smack talk, to be honest. He just off-commented how — downplayed my abilities. I don’t expect him to pump tires, to be honest, and yeah, I don’t think I’m as one-dimensional as he says.”
“I think my blitz is a strong part of my game, but I got other tricks.”
While dissecting the altercation, Whittaker expressed his reservations regarding Strickland’s conduct. He went on to say: “It was nothing really. I’m not gonna say I like him but I don’t hate him because he’s kind of holistically against everybody, you know what I mean? He’s holistically rude.”
“He’s not singling out certain people or genres or races or colors, he’s just kinda tellin’ off everyone (laughs). Being rude to everyone. I don’t hate that. But I don’t know, I think that fight looked a little staged. Staged on Strickland’s behalf, I don’t think Dricus got the memo (laughs).”
The brewing tension between Strickland and Du Plessis was evident before the UFC 296 incident. The verbal exchanges during the press conference further escalated the animosity.
Strickland made obscene remarks about the relationship between the South African and his instructor. Du Plessis responded by saying he’d give Strickland a greater thrashing than his father ever did.
Strickland was obviously hurt by the low blow. He had previously spoken out about the violence he endured as a youngster at the hands of his father.