MMA fighters move to the US ‘a major loss to NZ’

By Jessica Tyson

The loss of top professional combat fighters, such as Israel Adesanya who plans to move to the US, has been described as a major loss to sport in New Zealand.

The UFC middleweight world champion announced his move after experiencing struggles with the New Zealand MIQ system and therefore has been being unable to maximise his training in the past year.

He and former world Muay Thai champion Genah Fabian, of Tainui and Ngāti Maniapoto, have been members at City Kickboxing gym in Auckland. Fabian recently moved to the US in the lead-up to competing in a 10-women tournament after experiencing difficulties in accessing MIQ spots.

“It was just extremely hard and so it was a decision I had to make on the style of this tournament and how it’s structured. I made the decision to come over and compete knowing that I didn’t have a MIQ ticket to get back into the country.”

Running out of options

Fabian says, due to the current climate getting in and out New Zealand, the professional athletes have been left with no choice but to seek other options.

“We obviously are hindered greatly in our profession and how we make a living in the way that this current system is set up in MIQ quarantine facilities. So it’s just an option that we have to move forward on. We can’t have another year like this.”

She says losing athletes from City Kickboxing, such as Adesanya, will be a major loss to sports in New Zealand.

“It’s unfortunate it will have a big impact for, not only our bubble or circle…at the gym but for New Zealand combat sports, losing these big names and not having access to them being at home, she says.

“But this is how we make money and we travel abroad for our profession. It’s just a decision that we have to make if it all goes through.”

'City Kickboxing has put NZ on the map'

Fabian says there’s never been a group as successful that has come out of combat sports from New Zealand.

“Dan Hooker, Brad Riddell, Kai Kara-France, Carlos Ulberg, Israel Adesanya, Shane Young and I can list many more that are all on that brink of making it to the big shows," she says.

“What City Kickboxing has done for combat sports – the awareness, the accolades, the successes at the gym has had from this stable – has just amplified the sport and our country and put New Zealand on the map worldwide.”

However, going overseas seems like the best option for the athletes to provide them with accessibility to be able to train and work.  

“Not having to be locked out of the country for months on end, unknown as to when we can get home or get to our family families, she says.

“This just allows us to train and camp, be able to take these fights without having to wait out a year or be unsure as to when we can go and come back. It’s hindered a lot of us on the team this year to provide our families and to provide ourselves with our basic living expenses.”

Jacinda Ardern  contends high-profile MMA athletes treated fairly

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Te Ao Tapatahi this week that high-profile MMA athletes have not been treated differently from other professional sportspeople in relation to acquiring MIQ spots.

“I certainly would not expect there to be a difference in the way our sportspeople were treated. Having seen some of those comments, I see there is a wide range of issues there and there’s no doubt that managed isolation does make it hard to come and go from New Zealand and to travel when you have a role that requires travel, Ardern said.

“So I absolutely acknowledge and understand that but I hope that all our sportspeople feel that under the circumstances we’re in that everyone has fair treatment even though we’ve got tight borders.”

City Kickboxing speaks out about the 'failure' of NZ's MIQ system 

However, City Kickboxing disagreed with Ardern's statement saying it was "not true".

In a post on their Instagram page, the gym said that their athletes, as well as numerous other sports men and women, were not eligible for the same dispensations granted to other teams. 

"We were advised we did not meet the team's eligibility criteria in terms of size nor did we meet financial eligibility criteria regarding bringing income into New Zealand. We fervently challenge both those positions."

"Not only are CKB athletes representatives of a national team who wear the silver fern with pride, we are also a business, which provides jobs, supports numerous families and generates significant economic benefit to the country. Whether this be two huge stadium shows or providing some of the highest per capita viewership of UFC events in the world, or through event and hospitality venues, gyms and lounges across New Zealand being filled with people watching one of the countries most rapidly growing sports."

By speaking out, the gym hopes to use its platform to "bring attention to the inequity in the current MIQ system and its failure".

"To proactively develop sensible solutions, provided they don’t endanger public health. Our aim is to reduce the burden on a far larger group than just ourselves."