Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) will defend his title against Du Plessis (20-2 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in the UFC 297 main event on Jan. 20 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Chimaev’s (13-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) fight with Kamaru Usman at UFC 294 was considered a No. 1 contender bout, but Chimaev ended up injuring his hand in the win. Strickland will now face Du Plessis, whom he sees as a more deserving title challenger.
“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 going to be an intense battle. He’ll be a tougher opponent than Chimaev. Chimaev, he doesn’t 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.”
Du Plessis was originally the No. 1 contender after defeating Robert Whittaker at UFC 290, but when he couldn’t make a quick turnaround for UFC 293 to face then-champion Israel Adesanya, the title shot was awarded to Strickland.
Du Plessis was going to potentially be passed up again, but Chimaev’s injury appeared to open the door for him.
“At the end of the day, man, I’m happy with Dricus,” Strickland said. “It’s going to be a hell of a fight, and I’m just happy the UFC is doing the right thing. He’s next in line. He deserves it.
“They’ve been doing a lot of funny business lately with rankings and nonsense. Just wrong, man. We need to go back to a professional sport where rankings matter because as of now, rankings mean nothing.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.
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