UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is making the best move for his career - leaving New Zealand to set himself up in the United States.
Adesanya is expected to be joined by other members of the New Zealand-based UFC contingent - all who fight out of Auckland's City Kickboxing - after struggles with the MIQ system and being able to maximise training has hampered their careers in the past year.
Adesanya confirmed he would be among those to make the move, posting a statement on social media.
"Cat's out the bag… I'm moving to America," he said. "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. 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 move comes after Adesanya lashed out at New Zealand's bureaucrats, saying he would never fight in New Zealand again.
His comments were due to decisions not to allow New Zealand MMA athletes to continue preparations for their upcoming events using a makeshift lockdown bubble, as well as the fact Kiwi UFC fighters are among the many professional athletes in New Zealand unable to acquire MIQ spots.
"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]," Adesanya said.
"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 last fought in June, and the UFC is targeting his return in January next year in a rematch against former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker. It was reported the promotion wanted to book the fight in November this year, but the uncertainty of Adesanya securing a voucher was said to be the reason it was not booked.
While the group are yet to provide a timeline for their potential move, the suggestion of an exodus was brought up by team captain Dan Hooker last week ahead of his UFC 266 win over Nasrat Haqparast on Sunday, after Hooker struggled during fight camp due to the pandemic impacting his ability to train and travel in a timely manner.
Hooker said a move stateside was something that "has to happen".
"We've definitely had the discussion as a team now. A lot of people have been talking about it, thinking about it – I definitely have been thinking about it myself – making a move Stateside," Hooker said.
"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."