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Israel Adesanya apologizes after New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister calls out ‘rape’ insult

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Israel Adesanya
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Israel Adesanya is acknowledging that he crossed the line with recent comments regarding fellow UFC middleweight Kevin Holland.

The reigning 185-pound champion, who lives and trains in Auckland, New Zealand, issued an apology on social media Thursday for a video he posted to Instagram in which he targeted Holland with offensive language that drew the attention of New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

“Bro, I will f….n rape you,” Adesanya said towards Holland in the since-deleted video, according to the NZ Herald.

Robertson, who is also the country’s minister of sport, condemned the comments and said that Adesanya’s choice of words should always be considered inappropriate, adding, “I’m sure Israel understands that, I believe he has deleted the tweet in question. It will be up to the UFC as to what they do.

“But I would certainly be making clear to him, and to anybody actually, that we have to take rape seriously. It’s not an issue that anyone should be making jokes or flippant comments about at all.”

Adesanya’s apology reads as follows:

“Last weekend fight talk escalated to a point in which I crossed the line. I understand the gravity of this word and how it can affect and hurt other people apart from my opponent, although that was NEVER my intention. I am still to growing under the spotlight, and I take this as a lesson to be more selective with words under pressure.”

A UFC official did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The promotion maintains a Code of Conduct that bars fighters from using offensive language, though violations are evaluated and enforced on a case-by-case.

When the controversy first arose earlier this week, Adesanya appeared to take a defensive approach to the reaction to his comments.

Adesanya, 31, is coming off of the first loss of his pro MMA career, a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March. “The Last Stylebender” was attempting to add Blachowicz’s light heavyweight title to his collection and become a dual-division champion. He remains undefeated when competing at 185 pounds.

Despite his growing popularity, the outspoken Adesanya has faced criticism for his behavior in the past. Following a win over rival Paulo Costa at UFC 253, Adesanya celebrated with humiliating gestures directed towards Costa and his team, which led to debate over whether Adesanya had shown poor sportsmanship.

Adesanya also drew criticism in the lead-up to his UFC 248 title bout against Yoel Romero, in which he boasted that he would make Romero “crumble like the Twin Towers,” a reference to the tragic events of 9/11. He later apologized for that statement.