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UFC’s Israel Adesanya loses major sponsorship over rape comment

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Israel Adesanya’s jibe at Kevin Holland has lead to serious repercussions for the UFC middleweight champion.

UFC 259: Jan Blachowicz v Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya after he fought Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya recently took to twitter to apologize for an insensitive comment uttered on an Instagram video and directed at fellow fighter Kevin Holland. Adesanya said he “crossed the line” when he threatened that he would “f***ing rape” Holland should they ever fight.

Adesanya’s comments were met with backlash at home. New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who is also that country’s Minister for Sport, told the media that he would be “making it clear” to Adesanya that there is never a time to make “jokes or flippant comments” about rape.

Despite his apology, Adesanya continues to face consequences for his careless speech. Marca has reported that this controversy has cost ‘The Last Stylebender’ a lucrative sponsorship.

According to that outlet Adesanya had been signed by the German automaker BMW to be “the face of BMW in New Zealand”. But now the company has terminated that deal.

In a statement BMW said, “Due to the comments made by an athlete online, we have reviewed our pending association with said athlete and we have decided not to push forward with a specific ambassador for the brand at this time in New Zealand.”

Adesanya’s star has been on the rise in the UFC and beyond over the past few years, as he cleaved through the promotion’s middleweight division on route to taking the belt from Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in 2019.

Since winning the UFC’s 185 lb crown Adesanya has defended it against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa. Last month Adesanya took a shot at becoming one of the UFC’s few double-champs, when he moved up in weight to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 259.

Adesanya lost to ‘Polish Power’ by unanimous decision. That loss is the first defeat in Adesanya’s 21 fight MMA career.