Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, won “New Zealand Sportsman of the Year” at the 57th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards, the first time a combat sports athlete has taken home the prestigious honor.
You can thank the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) for that.
“It’s the first time combat athletes have been nominated so you know, I have to do this for the old, the combat athletes of old,” Adesanya said. “Rest in Peace Jimmy Thunder, David Tua, Doug Viney sitting right there, Ray Sefo, Joseph Parker, and now Israel Adesanya.”
Adesanya is scheduled to defend his middleweight title against longtime 185-pound title contender, Yoel Romero, at the upcoming UFC 248 pay-per-view (PPV) event, scheduled for Sat., March 7, 2020 inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where a new generation of fans will be watching.
“This is for the young generation coming up who get to see someone they can relate to, someone who is of my essence,” Adesanya said. “A combat athlete that they can feel like, ‘Man, my sport, like Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu or Wrestling is up there with the All-Blacks, the Black Caps, and the Tall Blacks and New Zealand’s top sporting teams. We’re on a level playing field.’”
For much more on Adesanya’s next fight click here.