Israel Adesanya was on the spotlight Thursday night, when awarded New Zealand’s Sportsman of the Year at Halberg Awards. It’s the first time combat athletes have been nominated. While on stage at the Spark Arena Auckland, he addressed the New Zealand’s tall poppy syndrome. “Coming up in this country, I have seen it so many times. When you see one of us rising, you want to tear him down, because you feel inadequate and you want to call it humble,” he said.

Israel Adesanya seized the moment to address New Zealand’s tall poppy syndrome

The Nigeria-born fighter and UFC middleweight champion used the moment to take a stand. “I am extraordinarily humble, believe me, but you’ll never know that, because you’ll never get to know me. “Understand this, if you see one of us shining – whether it be the Netball team, the Black Caps, the Sailors – pump them up, embrace them, because if they win, we win. If I win, you win. “Understand that,” he said. Augmented Learning was one of many who took to Twitter to share the strength and ideals in Adesanya’s acceptance speech.

He remembers combat sportsmen before him

Adesanya, in his characteristic humble posture, hailed other combat sportsmen who have gone before him, but were never recognised as Halberg Award winners. “It’s the first time combat athletes have been nominated so you know, I have to do this for the old, the combat athletes of old,” he said.

“Rest in Peace Jimmy Thunder, David Tua, Doug Viney sitting right there, Ray Sefo, Joseph Parker, and now Israel Adesanya. “For me, this really isn’t for me. This is for the young generation coming up who get to see someone they can relate to, someone who is of my essence, if you will. A combat athlete that they can feel like, ‘Man, my sport, like Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu or Wrestling is up there with the All-Blacks, the Black Caps, and the Tall Blacks and New Zealand’s top sporting teams.’ We’re on a level playing field. Like I said, we’ve been doing this for a long time, so this is for them,” said Israel.

You would recall that earlier in 2019, he defeated his idol, Anderson Silva achieving his UFC’s five-time straight unbeaten record and 16 MMA bouts. The fight was labelled one of the best of the year. His next fight is set to take place in Nevada on March 7 at UFC 248, against Yoel Romero.

Sources: SKY SPORT and Stuff.co.nz

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