Israel Adesanya opens up on experiences with racism

Israel Adesanya, UFC 243, Dan Hooker
Image via @stylebender on Instagram

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is no stranger to racism, and says it exists everywhere.

Adesanya shared his thoughts on racism in a recent interview with MMA Fighting.

“You get racism everywhere,” he said. “It’s like water off a duck’s back almost. One thing I find weird is that when I talk about it, especially when something happens in America, people are like ‘don’t get involved in American politics.’ Bro, when I come here, a KKK guy is not going to be like ‘oh you’re from Nigeria, you’re from New Zealand.’ They just see you as black. They’re going to be racist towards you regardless of where you’re from.”

Adesanya is not the first fighter to speak out on racism. Former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley has also been very vocal about his struggles with discrimination.

“If you look at the history of our sport,” Woodley said during a 2017 episode of the MMA Hour. “And it’s not even our sport, the history of the American culture. Certain things are subliminally embraced that are racist. When you say to me ‘Tyron, you are well spoken’, what does that mean? Does that mean I’m well spoken comparable to all the mixed martial artists, the 500 UFC fighters on the roster? Or does that mean as a black male in America.”

Israel Adesanya is now just over 24 hours out from a fight with Yoel Romero, which will mark the first defense of his middleweight title reign. The Nigerian-born Kiwi won the title in fall, when he defeated long-time champion Robert Whittaker by knockout. Prior to that, he won the interim title in an absolute war with Kelvin Gastelum. Adesanya is undefeated in MMA, and widely regarded as a future superstar, but will likely have to contend with racism for the duration of his career.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 3/6/2020.