Israel Adesanya has made a name for himself as one of the fiercest fighters to ever step into the Octagon. Recently, however, the 32-year-old Nigerian born New Zealander made headlines with his sharp tongue, not his blazing fists.
Adesanya (21-1), currently the UFC middleweight world champion, has been training with his teammates at City Kickboxing, a mixed martial arts gym in Auckland. He says his gym has been slapped with multiple warnings for violating the government’s COVID-19 restrictions and threatened with shutdown.
“We had police roll up to our bubble and bust it up,” Adesanya said on his YouTube channel. “You will never see me fight in New Zealand ever again, ever again,”
Adesanya, who has been training with Dan Hooker in preparation for Hooker’s UFC 266 bout with Nasrat Haqparast in Las Vegas on Saturday, said the fighters are being treated differently than other athletes in New Zealand, in part because of his race.
“The rugby, the cricket, and all the others they’re giving exemptions to,” Adesanya says. “I already know they don’t like me – the bureaucrats of this country. ‘Oh, he talks too much, he’s not humble enough, he doesn’t represent a true Kiwi.’”
Adesanya said one of his lifelong dreams was to “headline a stadium” in his New Zealand home, but no more.
“That dream is dead, dead in the water,” he said. “[Expletive] these [expletive]. I just don’t respect them and what they’re doing to my boys.”
‘A Constant Effort to Stifle, Break Up and Disrupt’
Adesanya is clearly frustrated with the situation his gym is in and with New Zealand’s government, which issued “essential worker” exemptions to media—who used them to stake out City Kickboxing and report the gym for alleged violations.
He says the state’s actions feel like a “constant effort to stifle, break up and disrupt” the work he and his team are putting in. A notable illustration of this is Hooker’s attempt to get his visa back from the New Zealand government so he can travel to Vegas for the fight.
Hooker says he turned his visa over weeks in advance to authorities so he could be approved for travel, but weeks passed and he received no response—until he was told it would not be approved in time. Hooker turned to social media to start a public campaign to pressure the New Zealand government to get into gear so his fight would not be canceled (an option few of us regular people have), and the plan worked—though travel will be a crunch.
Hooker flew out Thursday and arrived late in the night. He weighed in on Friday. And he’ll fight Haqparast on Saturday.
“And guess what? He’s probably gonna come back on Sunday,” Adesanya notes.
As any professional fighter will tell you, this is not the ideal way to prepare for a fight. (Fortunately for Hooker, Haqparast had similar problems. He flew out of Germany Thursday after receiving 11th hour visa approval.)
Adesanya said it’s difficult to watch his government ruin something that was built up through so much hard work.
“The people built this f*cking sport in New Zealand. The people,” he said. “No government handouts. No grants. No funding. We did this hard work and passion. The people.”
@USAmbNZ Hi Kevin, apologies for messaging on here but it's a last resort.— Dan Hangman Hooker (@danthehangman) September 16, 2021
My visa is with the US embassy here in NZ as I fight next week in Las Vegas on #UFC266
Update today is it won't be approved until next week due to lock down which will cancel my fight. Please help. 🙏
The ‘Slowness and Slackness’ of Bureaucracy
The economist Ludwig von Mises would likely agree with Adesanya that bureaucracy seems like a constant effort to stifle, break up, and disrupt.
The author Franz Kafka artfully described the oppressive nature of bureaucracy, but it was Mises who explained that bureaucracies are inherently dysfunctional and inefficient, which explains why Dan Hooker’s effort to get his visa was such a nightmare.
As Mises explained, bureaucracy will always be slow because they lack the incentives that make markets so efficient.
"No reform can remove the bureaucratic features of the government’s bureaus. It is useless to blame them for their slowness and slackness,” Mises explained in Bureaucracy. “It is vain to lament over the fact that the assiduity, carefulness, and painstaking work of the average bureau clerk are, as a rule, below those of the average worker in private business . . . In the absence of an unquestionable yardstick of success and failure it is almost impossible for the vast majority of men to find that incentive to utmost exertion that the money calculus of profit-seeking business easily provides. . . . All such deficiencies are inherent in the performance of services which cannot be checked by money statements of profit and loss."
The inherent dysfunction of bureaucracy is one of its weaknesses, but as the experience at City Kickboxing shows, a functioning bureaucracy can be just as bad as a dysfunctional one—since oftentimes the goal of bureaucracies is to stifle and control components of a functioning economy.
Fortunately, freedom of movement means people don’t have to tolerate such indignities.
“You will never ever see me fight on these shores [again],” Adesanya said.