UFC champion Israel Adesanya: Trash-talk threat to 'rape' opponent 'crossed the line'

Jason Owens
·2-min read
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria reacts after his UFC light heavyweight championship fight against Jan Blachowicz of Poland during the UFC 259 event at UFC APEX on March 06, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Israel Adesanya called criticism of his threat "clickbait" before New Zealand's deputy prime minister weighed in. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Israel Adesanya changed his tone on Thursday amid criticism of his threat to "rape" an opponent while talking trash.

The UFC middleweight champion issued a statement that his choice of words "crossed the line" and vowed to "be more selective with words under pressure."

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What prompted Adesanya's statement

Adesanya drew fire for his word choice while verbally sparring online with middleweight contender Kevin Holland. Holland called Adesanya a "true loser" after Adesanya's UFC 259 loss to Jan Blachowicz in a March 6 light heavyweight title bout.

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Adesanya, who fights out of New Zealand, responded to Holland's barb in a since-expired Instagram story declaring "Bro, I’ll f***ing rape you.” As criticism of his comment gained traction in New Zealand and on social media, Adesanya appeared to dismiss the backlash as "clickbait."

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New Zealand's deputy prime minister weighs in

That was before New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson stepped in. Robertson, who is also the nation's sports minister, condemned Adesanya's rape comment in an interview with Radio New Zealand on Thursday.

"There is never a time to make flippant comments about rape," Robertson said. "It's just not something anybody should do. "I am sure Israel understands that. I believe he has deleted [the post] in question. It will be up to the UFC as to what they do. ...

"It is not an issue that anyone should be making jokes or flippant comments about at all."

Adesanya issued his statement that he "crossed the line" after Robertson's comments.

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