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UFC champion Strickland comes advertised: R-rated and with no self-edit

Sean Strickland Sean Strickland - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — UFC middleweight champion Sean (Tarzan) Strickland came as advertised Wednesday — R-rated with absolutely no self-edit.

"I'm going to try not to say the F-word," the 32-year-old Strickland said upon arriving at the UFC 297 media day at a downtown hotel.

By my count, he hit triple-digits with F-bomb variations by the 14-minute mark of his 25-minute availability. With many more to come.

Strickland, wearing one of his signature "A women in every kitchen, a gun in every hand" T-shirts, somehow careened between entertaining and offensive, often seconds apart. And whatever you think of the slogan or him, it's clear he genuinely doesn't give a hoot.

That includes being insulted by Joe Public on the street.

"I don't care. Enjoy," he said, slipping in one of the F-bombs, this time with the word "mother" in front. "You better just do it far enough away, because I'll hit you."

The Las Vegas-based Strickland makes his first title defence Saturday when he takes on No. 2 middleweight contender South African Dricus (Stillknocks) Du Plessis in the main event of UFC 297 at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena.

The two brawled in the stands last month at UFC 296, with Strickland subsequently threatening to stab Du Plessis if he brings up again the issue of the violence the champion says he suffered at the hands of his late abusive, drunken father. Du Plessis used that as ammunition after Strickland made homophobic slurs towards the South African and his coach at a UFC news conference in December.

Du Plessis, who exudes charisma, made no apologies for such trash talk, saying Strickland had raised the topic.

"He made those comments, he made it public and he was making a joke of it. Not me," he said at a separate appearance before Strickland's Wednesday. "Do I think it's good? No, it's terrible what happened to him."

But the South African said he threw it back to him after Strickland made offensive and outrageous comments and "tried to bully me."

"I showed him what it's feels like if you get some of your own medicine," Du Plessis said. "I do respect him a lot. But I'm not going to let him bully me."

Strickland (28-5-0) is a primal force in the cage, with a powerful jab that sets up powerful combinations. He comes forward like a shark.

He makes no bones about his background.

"I came from being a white trash, shaved head, kicked out of school for a hate crime," he said, throwing in an epithet.

And Strickland says his job is simple.

"You take your clothes off. Somebody says 'I'm going to give you this much money to try to kill a man,'" he explained, opting for just one F-bomb.

The shiny championship belt means nothing to him, he says. "I just want to make (people) bleed and Dricus is the next one who's going to bleed," he told the December news conference, adding two more F-words.

Strickland cheerfully offered his take on the gay, lesbian and transgender community when asked — he doesn't care what people do as long as it's not taught in school or pushed on people.

He has no problem with women's MMA, just doesn't like to watch it.

"Do you want to watch a sports car race a Honda Civic? No, you want to watch a sports car," he said, complete with three F-bombs. "There is a vast difference between men and women."

"I'm just saying what you're thinking," he added.

While Saturday's main-event matchup is not exactly good versus evil, the two fighters could not be more different.

Du Plessis (20-2-0) happily told the story of a local Uber driver who bought him coffee and took him back to the Toronto hotel when the suburban gym he was hoping to work out at turned out to be closed.

Unasked, Strickland offered his take on the Canadian political scene, quizzing a Canadian reporter whether he was "a COVID bank account stealer" — a reference to banks freezing accounts linked to the "Freedom Convoy" protest in Ottawa.

"I love Canadians," he said after sparring with another Canadian reporter. "I've never met a Canadian that I didn't like until today."

He may have gone too far when it came to Canada and hockey, however.

"They gave us hockey and they're not even good at it," said Strickland, whose hometown Golden Knights are reigning Stanley Cup champions. "Like, come on."

Du Plessis. meanwhile, got a boost from back home earlier Wednesday when the Rugby World Cup champion Springboks sent him a message of support via social media.

"Your whole country is behind you," was part of the message,

Saturday marks the UFC's first show in Toronto since UFC 231 in December 2018 and the first in Canada since UFC 289 last June in Vancouver.

The 12-bout Toronto card features nine of the 19 Canadian or Canadian-based fighters in the UFC's roster of 600-plus athletes with welterweight (Proper) Mike Malott and middleweight Marc-Andre Barriault both on the main card.

Other Canadians on the card are flyweights Jasmine Jasudavicius and Malcom (X) Gordon, strawweight Gillian (The Savage) Robertson, bantamweights Serhiy Sidey and Brad (Superman) Katona, featherweight Charles (Air) Jourdain and welterweight Yohan (White Lion) Lainesse.

But the spotlight is on Strickland this week. And he's got opinions to share.

"I go hard on everybody," the champion said. "Sometimes some (manure) gets on me, I'm fully aware of that. But it is what it is, man."


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2024.