Israel Adesanya and coach Eugene Bareman make MMA history with Halberg nominations

Undefeated UFC champion Israel Adesanya and coach Eugene Bareman have created history as finalists at the upcoming Halberg Awards, a potential game changer for their highly criticised sport.

Adesanya is the best middleweight in the world while Bareman has coached two UFC champions - including Australian featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski last year - and is on his way to being voted best coach in the world.

His Auckland City Kickboxing gym is also among the world's best.

“I think popular opinion is hopefully starting to change and hopefully that's got a little bit to do with what some of the success that we're having,” Bareman said.

The Halbergs have never featured mixed martial arts before.

“I've travelled the world, the sport is literally everywhere," he said. "The whole world knows the sport, this is a global sport. and someone like Israel - and for that matter, Alex - have managed to reach the pinnacle of it, the enormity of that I don't think people can grasp.”

With a total of six fighters currently starring in a billion-dollar industry, Bareman has come a long way since 1 NEWS caught up with him 16 years ago as an amateur kickboxer.

The sport's grass roots will be firmly in his mind come awards night.

“There's founders of this sport that have come before me that have poured their entire livelihood into the sport and have got no recognition for it," he said. "Recognition of the sport is recognition of the work they did as well - that's what we want.”