Israel Adesanya has landed another strike in the battle between New Zealand and the country's sports stars, following ongoing issues in 2021.
For many New Zealand athletes, the country's border and MIQ restrictions have severely affected their ability to do their jobs since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the country's mixed martial artists fighting for the top promotions in the world, they were unable to travel as frequently as they would have liked due to border restrictions and MIQ, as they failed to get any sort of exemptions or spaces saved in MIQ facilities to return to.
It saw many of the athletes spend weeks or months outside of the country before they could return home – Professional Fighters League lightweight Genah Fabian has yet to be able to secure a return home since leaving for a fight card in August last year – having to rely on the MIQ lottery system.
Things hit another nerve for Adesanya and his team at Auckland's City Kickboxing gym during a lockdown last year when after they had set up a bubble at the gym they believed to be in line with protocols to prepare Dan Hooker for an upcoming bout, police were called and forced the bubble to burst.
A much smaller group then tried to help Hooker train at his own gym, the Combat Academy, but again police were called and they were told they weren't to train together despite starting lockdown in the same bubble.
On Sunday, after defending his middleweight title against Robert Whittaker in Houston with teammates Carlos Ulberg and Blood Diamond also on the card, Adesanya was asked about the treatment of New Zealand's UFC fighters in the country, and he didn't hold back.
"It's the most stupid thing," Adesanya said.
"We've got three fighters from Auckland, New Zealand, fighting tonight and we're representing the country. The reach the UFC has, how many countries is this going to be viewed in throughout the world?
"Yet, when we're doing great, they want to try pat us on the back and try and piggyback on what we're doing. But when they had the chance to shaft us; that's why what they did to Dan Hooker, that still pisses me off.
"I don't want to give them too much time because f*** the c***s anyway. But we're self-funded, self-made, we've never had any handouts from the Government; we've done this shit ourselves, and we don't need them."
It comes after Adesanya said last year that he would not fight in New Zealand following the treatment of him and his teammates, particularly in comparison with some other sports. And it hasn't just been the mixed martial artists who have spoken out about the struggles in their ability to get out and perform their jobs, with golfers, surfers, athletics stars and more also voicing frustrations in the last couple of years.
Things got slightly better for New Zealand athletes who didn't meet the criteria for group MIQ bookings in December last year with Sport New Zealand were given a monthly allocation of 20 spots for individuals who met the criteria and had been unable to secure an MIQ booking through the online lobby.
However, the Government has since put a freeze on MIQ booking as it prepares to open the borders – first time New Zealanders wanting to return from Australia in late February, before the rest of the world in mid-March. Arrival will be able to self-isolate rather than observe a period in MIQ.