UFC star Israel Adesanya under fire for ‘rape’ comment

New Zealand’s deputy prime minister has condemned UFC champion Israel Adesanya’s comment that he would “rape” a fellow fighter.

“Bro, I will fuckin’ rape you,” Adesanya said in an Instagram video directed at Kevin Holland, who had targeted him with a series of insulting remarks. Adesanya’s comment was broadcast to his Instagram following of 4.6 million before the post was deleted.

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson condemned the remark and said: “We have to take rape seriously. It’s not an issue that anyone should be making jokes or flippant comments about at all.”

Robertson, who is also New Zealand’s minister for sport, added during an interview with Radio New Zealand: “I’m sure Israel understands that, I believe he has deleted the tweet [sic] in question. It will be up to the UFC as to what they do.”

The UFC middleweight champion is one of New Zealand’s most successful sporting exports and has a considerable international reach on social media – along with his 4.6 million Instagram followers he has 860,000 on Twitter.

Since making his UFC debut in 2018, Adesanya’s rise has been meteoric. The 31-year-old is considered one of the best strikers in the world and is currently ranked fifth in the UFC men’s pound-for-pound rankings.

He was undefeated in the octagon with a 20-0 record until earlier this month, when his bid to hold two belts simultaneously fell short in a light heavyweight title match against Jan Blachowicz.

It is not the first time that Adesanya has been in the spotlight for making slurs or ill-considered remarks.

In early 2020 he apologised after threatening to make his opponent Yoel Romero “crumble like the Twin Towers”. At the time, he said, “You speak on the mic enough times and you’re bound to miss the mark with some bars… I did on this one and for that I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful in future with my words.”

So far, Adesanya has not responded directly to criticism of the rape comment, but took to Twitter as the story broke to tweet: “Incoming clickbait NZ media in 3, 2, 1… This is what it’s all about…CLOUT!!”