The UFC made quite the splash on Sept. 24, when it was reported by Combate’s Raphael Marinho that Dricus Du Plessis, the former welterweight champion in KSW and welterweight and middleweight titlist in Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC), one of the Eastern Hemisphere’s most highly-touted talents, had signed with the promotion.
Du Plessis is scheduled to make his Octagon debut on short notice, facing Markus Perez at UFC Fight Island 5 on Oct. 10. Perez had been originally scheduled to face jiu jitsu legend Rodolfo Vieira, but Vieira pulled out days earlier due to an injury.
Throughout most of his professional MMA career, right from the beginning, Du Plessis competed in the EFC promotion based in his native South Africa. Du Plessis made his debut at EFC 21 in July 2013, winning four straight fights – three by TKO – before challenging future UFC veteran Garreth McLellan for the EFC middleweight title at EFC 33. Du Plessis suffered his first defeat in the bout, when he was submitted in the third round.
Du Plessis managed to rebound with a five-fight streak of submission wins via choke. This included submitting Martin Van Staden at EFC 50 in June 2016 to win the then-vacant EFC welterweight title, Du Plessis’ first professional MMA title, in just his second fight at welterweight.
For Du Plessis, however, this wasn’t enough. And after two fights back up at middleweight — a first-round submission of ACA standout Rafal Haratyk and a first-round TKO of Mauricio Da Rocha Jr. — Du Plessis challenged Yannick Bahati for the EFC middleweight championship at EFC 62. Du Plessis submitted Bahati in the first round, becoming the first EFC fighter to hold simultaneously hold championships in two weight classes.
Du Plessis teased going after the EFC light heavyweight championship after his historic win; instead, he went on to compete for a brief period in KSW. And in his first fight for the promotion, at KSW 43 in April 2018, Du Plessis finished promotional posterboy and now-champion Roberto Soldic to claim the KSW welterweight championship.
Du Plessis’ KSW title run wouldn’t be for long, however, as he’d drop the belt back to Soldic in a rematch at KSW 45 and was eventually stripped of the EFC welterweight title due to inactivity.
After a return to middleweight with a win over Joilton Santos in KSW in September 2019, Du Plessis returned to EFC at EFC 83 to unify the middleweight title with the then 3-0 Brendan Lesar, who had knocked out McLellan in under three minutes in arguably EFC’s biggest upset to win interim gold at EFC 80. In front of a home crowd in Pretoria, South Africa, Du Plessis finished Lesar with a first-round submission to retain the belt.
He once again teased going after the EFC light heavyweight title, but will now have a major opportunity in joining the UFC and have the hopes of a spectacular short-notice debut.
His opponent, Perez, has traded wins and losses since coming into the UFC as a 9-0 fighter in December 2017. Perez notably holds wins over Ian Heinisch, James Bochnovic, and Anthony Hernandez, and has lost to the likes of Eryk Anders, Andrew Sanchez, and Wellington Turman.
In addition to Du Plessis and McLellan, other notable EFC athletes to compete in the UFC include Don Madge, Dalcha “Champion” Lungiambula, JP Buys, Danny Henry, Cyril Asker, and Ruan Potts. In addition, Nkazimulo Zulu competed on season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter.