MMA fighter Israel Adesanya awarded Sportsman of the Year at Halberg Awards

MMA fighter Israel Adesanya has been named Sportsman of the Year at this year's Halberg Awards, becoming the first combat sport athlete to win the award since 1953.

Source: 1 NEWS

The Nigerian-New Zealand MMA fighter had a fiery acceptance speech, calling for an end to the 'tall poppy' culture in the country and motivating young athletes.

"This isn't really for me. This is for the young generation coming up who get to see someone they can relate to, someone of my essence if you will, that they can see a combat athlete.. is up there with the likes of the All Blacks, the Black Caps, the Tall Blacks."

He said he's "incredibly humble" but hates the way Kiwis cut each other down when they're successful.

"If you see one of us shining… pump them up, embrace them!" he said, to great applause.

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"If they win, we win. If I win, you win. Understand that."

His next remark got notably more subdued applease.

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"Some of you might clap and still be a bit salty, you know what, stay salty," he said.

"This black Kiwi gonna fly all day."

Adesanya won the UFC middleweight title in 2019.