Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya takes aim at New Zealand "bureaucrats" over Dan Hooker lockdown bubble

Publish Date
Thursday, 23 September 2021, 6:00PM
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By: Christopher Reive

Kiwi MMA star Israel Adesanya is not happy with New Zealand - and says he will never fight here again.

The UFC's middleweight champion has launched a blistering attack on the country's "bureaucrats" on his YouTube channel 'Freestylebender' over authorities' decision not to allow New Zealand MMA athletes to continue preparations for their upcoming events using a makeshift lockdown bubble.

The 32-year-old, who hasn't fought at home since joining the UFC in early 2018, said his dreams of doing so were now dead.

His comments come after a makeshift bubble at Auckland's City Kickboxing gym was disbanded after being served with a warning notice by police, as well as the fact Kiwi UFC fighters are among the many, many professional athletes in New Zealand unable to acquire MIQ spots, while teams such as the Bangladesh and Netherlands cricket teams have been granted exemptions to enter the country.

"You will never see me fight in New Zealand ever again," Adesanya said in the video.

"All that money, they can get it from somewhere else. Their rugbys, their crickets and all the others they're giving exemptions to, but you will never ever see me fight on these shores [again].

"That was one of my dreams, to headline a stadium in my backyard. That dream's dead in the water ... that's just the way I feel right now."

Kiwi UFC lightweight contender Dan Hooker and several other fighters and coaches had made their home at the gym in order to continue training for events, including Hooker's next UFC appearance at UFC 266 in late September. After disbanding, Hooker and a couple of others continued trying to prepare for his fight at his own gym – the Combat Academy in Ellerslie. However, they were again warned by police.

Adesanya hit out at journalists who were allegedly staking out Hooker's gym to take photos of Hooker, teammate Brad Riddell and coach Eugene Bareman training. Under lockdown regulations, journalists are considered essential workers and are allowed to be out and about for work purposes.

"That pissed me off," Adesanya said in the video. "It's like 'really, this is what you're using your privilege to do?' The constant effort to stifle, to break up, to disrupt our team at City Kickboxing from helping team captain Dan 'Hangman' Hooker for getting ready for his fight, that's pissed me off the most."

He went on to say he would understand it if it was himself who was preparing for a fight, calling the country "racist" and saying the New Zealand flag is "ugly". Adesanya, born in Nigeria, also went on to say he thought the Nigerian flag was "ugly" as well.

"I don't really rock flags; I'm not really a patriot like that. For me, I'm about my people and if you're my people you know you're my people - I don't give a f*** where in the world you're from," he said.

Adesanya posted a shortened clip of the video on his Instagram account in which he appears on camera claiming he knows the "bureaucrats of the country" don't like him, and also says he thinks the New Zealand flag is ugly - cutting off before he goes on to discuss the Nigerian flag as well in the original video.

"He talks too much, he's not humble enough, he doesn't represent us Kiwis," he mimics people saying.

"They're racists, some of them are f***ing racists," he continues. "Of course they don't want a black boy representing New Zealand. But you're doing this to Dan Hangman Hooker.

Fight camp for Hooker has been a chaotic experience ahead of his bout this weekend at UFC266 in Las Vegas. Auckland went into level 4 lockdown just days after he signed on to square off against German power puncher Nasrat Haqparast.

He and over fighters and coaches of the gym moved into City Kickboxing before the lockdown officially begun to form their own bubble which lasted about a week before they were forced to disband.

He was again warned by police after trying to put work in with a couple of others who were with him in the gym bubble at his own gym, and has since had to rely on training he could do by himself.

It then took a frantic rally for a last-minute meeting at the US Embassy for Hooker to get his visa, with lockdown delaying the process. Hooker was supposed to fly out the Vegas last Sunday, but had to delay that - acquiring his visa on Monday.

He will now fly to Vegas tonight - during a critical time in the weight cutting process - and arrive in Vegas less than 24 hours before he is due to hit the scales.

Hooker's scheduled opponent has not only had similar issues, securing his visa on Thursday and was expected to make it to the fight in a similar timeframe as Hooker, but has also dealt with the death of his mother in recent weeks, but is committed to doing what he can to make it to the fight.

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission