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After New Zealand’s treatment of Dan Hooker, Israel Adesanya declares he’s leaving for America

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New lockdown laws make training for UFC fights nearly impossible in New Zealand, so “Stylebender” has decided to move to the United States.

UFC 263: Adesanya v Vettori 2 Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Things haven’t been too easy for the fighters out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand since COVID-19 finally pierced the country’s bubble and sent everyone into varying degrees of lockdown. Not that it was perfect beforehand ... on the plus side, Israel Adesanya got to enjoy a New Years Eve festival with 40,000 people. On the downside, Dan Hooker had to spend several weeks trapped away from his family after UFC 257 because of the country’s travel voucher and quarantine protocols.

For his UFC 266 fight with Nasrat Haqparast (which Hooker won via unanimous decision), things quickly went from difficult to nearly impossible. Officials revoked the gym’s permission to operate a training camp, sending police to break things up several times. And then it looked like the government office in charge of processing visas into America wasn’t going to get Hooker his travel papers in time for the fight.

However, a bout of digital harassment from #MMATwitter ended up sorting things out, but clearly the writing was on the wall: so long as COVID-19 is around, fighting out of New Zealand isn’t a good idea.

“The way it’s looking, I can’t speak for my teammates, it’s looking like stationing away from New Zealand — our hand is forced,” Hooker said after landing in America.

And now his teammate — and reigning Middleweight champion — Israel Adesanya has confirmed that he’ll be relocating to the United States.

In a Tweet tagged #ComingToAmerica, “Stylebender” wrote, “Cat’s out the bag…. I’m moving to America. When faced with obstacles, we adapt and overcome. I’m 32 and applying pressure like J Cole before I’m out the game. 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,” Adesanya continued. “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!!”

Leading up to his teammate’s fight at UFC 266, Adesanya sounded fed up with the situation and declared he was done competing in his country.

“You will never see me fight in New Zealand ever again,” Adesanya said in a video uploaded to his YouTube account. “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. 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.

“It’s like really, this is what you’re using your privilege to do?” he concluded. “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.”

No word yet on whether Adesanya’s head coach, Eugene Bareman, will be relocating as well, or other members of City Kickboxing. But, with Hooker and Alexander Volkanovski also mulling stateside relocations, that’s a massive chunk of his fighter stable leaving Oceania for America.


For complete UFC 266: “Volkanovski vs. Ortega” results and play-by-play, click HERE.