The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world recently witnessed a historic shift. Sean Strickland, the unexpected dark horse, took center stage, proving that in the world of MMA, predictions and reputations can be upturned in moments. As the dust from UFC 293 begins to settle, many questions hover in the atmosphere, the primary one being: Who will dare to challenge the new Middleweight Champion next?
Although the recent title defense at UFC 293 is now a chapter closed, the MMA community is abuzz with speculations. Will Strickland face Adesanya once more, offering him a chance to reclaim his lost crown? Or will the attention shift towards the top contender, Dricus Du Plessis? As we inch closer to UFC 294, eyes are also on the much-anticipated clash between Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev. The winner might just find themselves in the octagon opposite Strickland soon.
Strickland, however, seems to be in a league of his own when it comes to these speculations. While the world debates matchups, he zeroes in on the ultimate prize: revenue. Candidly sharing what matters most to him is the commercial aspect of his next bout, “I want to make f***ing money. I don’t want to fight anyone boring. Give me someone who’s gonna make money.”
The former champion, Adesanya, appears to be in a reflective mode following his defeat. Publicly addressing the unanimous decision loss for the first time, Adesanya remarked that while the defeat was unsatisfactory, it wasn’t the worst outcome. His future in the UFC remains cryptic with a simple, “We’ll see.”
The ascent to championship wasn’t an easy path for Strickland. Having fought six times in the past two years, he stands with a commendable 4-2 record in that duration, and an overall impressive 28-5. After such a grueling journey, Strickland is planning a brief respite, eyeing a return to the ring in early 2024.
On his podcast ‘The Man Dance’, Strickland delved deeper into his emotions following his unexpected victory. There’s an evident mix of surprise and satisfaction in his voice. He playfully admitted, “Oh yeah, I guess I did win a championship,” before moving on to acknowledge the anticipated challenge from Adesanya, “I thought Izzy would be better. I’m sure the UFC might give him a rematch and he might take it a little bit more serious and put up a better fight.”
What made Strickland’s victory even more remarkable was the context. He wasn’t the first choice for the title bout; Dricus du Plessis held that honor. Yet, when destiny knocked, Strickland answered emphatically. Against all odds, and to the surprise of many, he dominated Adesanya, proving the naysayers wrong with a one-sided unanimous decision, even flooring the former champion in the opening round.
The aftershocks of Strickland’s victory are palpable. It has reshuffled the cards of the UFC middleweight division. Even UFC CEO Dana White, who originally seemed to favor an Adesanya rematch, now seems ambivalent, adding to the suspense.
If there’s one thing consistent about Strickland, it’s his candidness. Whether discussing potential opponents or his life post-victory, he remains genuine. Reflecting on the changes that come with the championship title, Strickland noted, “As [long] as there’s a camera in my face, I don’t want to participate in making people feel like you are not enough.”
Strickland’s ethos is grounded in humility and gratitude. His recent acquisitions, a modest $500 trailer and a dinghy boat, stand testament to this. In a world where fame can easily alter perceptions, Strickland’s vow to remain the man he was before the championship is a refreshing deviation.