UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has launched a sensational attack on New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, accusing her of "gaslighting" sports stars in the country in a row over Covid protocols.
The Kiwi state is currently enforcing Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) rules, in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
But the protocols have made it difficult for fighters to get visas for overseas competitions, made it more complicated to train through the removal of social bubbles and led to delays for fighters returning home while they wait for clearance.
MIQ rules have pushed City Kickboxing fighter Adesanya, who was born in Nigeria but moved to New Zealand as a 10-year-old and fights out of Auckland, to announce he is emigrating to the US.
Ardern has denied that the rules are unfairly targeting Adesanya and his fellow fighters, saying she would "certainly not expect there to be a difference in the way our sportspeople were treated".
The popular premier continued: "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.
"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."
Clearly, though, Adesanya was having none of it.
In his response on Twitter, he posted the words: "Why you f***en lyyyyiiiing," next to a Photoshopped image of Ardern's face on the body of Austin Powers baddie Dr. Evil.
Do you think New Zealand's quarantine rules are fair on fighters? Let us know in the comments section.
Also on the image was the caption: "This feels like gaslighting… or lying."
He followed it up be repeating the song lyrics in a second Tweet, attaching a statement from Adesanya's training gym City Kickboxing which also said Ardern's assertion "just isn't true".
"Our athletes as well as numerous other sports men and women were not eligible for the same dispensations granted to other teams.
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"We were advised we did not meet the teams 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."
Adesanya's City Kickboxing team-mate Dan Hooker, also a UFC fighter, backed his friend up ahead of a fight against Islam Makhachev which will take him out of the country where his young family lives, unknowing when he will be allowed to return due to MIQ rules.
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