UFC champ Israel Adesanya off to US

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

New Zealand mixed martial arts world champion Israel Adesanya is planning a move to the US.

Israel Adesanya celebrates his successful title defence against Marvin Vettori.

Israel Adesanya celebrates his successful title defence against Marvin Vettori. Photo: Photosport

The UFC middleweight champion’s decision came amid the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and New Zealand’s MIQ system on the careers of the country’s leading MMA athletes.

Adesanya announced the news in a statement posted to social media.

“Cat’s out the bag… I’m moving to America,” he said. “When faced with obstacles, we adapt and overcome.

“We built this legacy at City Kickboxing ourselves and the support of the people. No govt handouts or backing and became the number one winning gym on earth!

“Four walls and a roof don’t make a martial arts gym. The people who toil day in and day out make it what it is. So wherever those four walls and a roof is located, it’ll still be City Kickboxing!!”

The announcement came less than a week after a frustrated Adesanya said he would never fight in New Zealand again.

The 32-year-old was not only unhappy with the MIQ difficulties he and his team-mates had encountered relative to several major codes, but also decisions to shut down makeshift bubbles they had created to prepare for overseas events.

“You will never see me fight in New Zealand ever again,” he said.

“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”

Adesanya was set to be joined in the US by other top New Zealand MMA fighters.

MMA fighter Dan Hooker

Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Prior to his win at UFC 266 in Las Vegas on Sunday, City Kickboxing team-mate Dan Hooker said it was inevitable he would make the move.

Hooker confirmed discussions at the Auckland gym, home to seven of New Zealand’s UFC athletes, had begun.

“A lot of people have been talking about it, thinking about it – I definitely have been thinking about it myself – making a move Stateside.

“Now we’re just planning the logistics of it. It’s going to be left up to our coaches and not a decision we’ll make, but it looks like me and the family will be moving Stateside with the team.

“This last one was just getting a bit crazy. The fights before that, the same thing: lockdowns during fight camp, staying after for two months, then this one just took the cake.”

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