City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman has made the case that Israel Adesanya is bigger than the All Blacks, as he continues to push for individual athletes to receive the same benefits that team sports have been granted by the MIQ system.
The City Kickboxing stable of fighters, including Adesanya and Dan Hooker, are considering a permanent move to the United States after being unable to secure MIQ vouchers that the likes of the All Blacks have been receiving.
Bareman argues the criteria is flawed in prioritising team sports such as the All Blacks and various international cricket teams over individual fighters from his gym, and claims that they’ve hit a brick wall every time when raising the issue.
“Basically they have what I think is a ridiculous criteria that if you meet a certain number – so if your team is large enough and it represents New Zealand and it brings enough economic value to the country but it consists of 30 plus people – then you are able to fit certain criteria to be able to get some dispensations,” Bareman told D’Arcy Waldegrave on Newstalk ZB.
“Obviously fight sport and a fight team doesn’t come anywhere near 30, nor does a tennis team or a rowing team or a golf team. It’s ridiculous to restrict people based on how many people are involved in that sport, yet you’ve got a sport that requires 30 players and 10 staff, they are able to fit the criteria and they get the dispensations.
“It’s a funny sort of criteria to use, but those are the rules and those are the laws that have kind of stopped us from moving forward and stop all sportsmen in the smaller teams and small individual sports from being able to progress their career.
“There’s just been no movement on that either. There’s been no improvement, there’s been no attempt to improve it. You don’t have a choice. You’ve been forced to move from your own country to provide for your family.”
Bareman argues that his fighters should meet any economic criteria, making the claim that Adesanya is bigger than the All Blacks globally.
“I’ve been in the furthest corners of this planet where you don’t expect anyone to recognise Israel and he will be inundated with people coming up to him, to the point where we have to form a barrier around him to get moving down the street. And this can be in the most obscure places in the middle of China that you’ve ever even heard of.
“I just know that you put an All Black, even some of the more popular ones, in that same position, no one would know who they are. It’s a primitive comparison if you like, but at this point he’s much bigger than the All Blacks on a global scale.
“One of the criteria that the Government is saying we don’t meet is the financial eligibility criteria, which I fervently have to disagree with. We’ve had two big major stadium shows here, we have some of the highest per capita viewing rates of UFC events in the world.
“When one of the guys are fighting, the pubs and clubs are filling up, up and down the country. People are getting around their TV, people are taking their kids to the gyms, people are buying all the MMA equipment, the sports equipment.
“Although it’s not as tangible as some of the things the All Blacks did, there’s millions and millions of dollars being circulated around because of these guys’ success.
“You can’t say that we don’t meet the financial eligibility criteria. We do a hell of a lot more than the 15 people that are going to come and watch the Netherlands play cricket.”
As a result of their frustration at the MIQ system, City Kickboxing are now making plans to permanently relocate to the US, but Bareman is hoping to avoid the drastic move.
“City Kickboxing absolutely does not want to move over to America at all. That should be made pretty clear. Our hand is kind of getting forced if you like. Just getting let down by the system really.
“Our preference and number one priority is to stay in New Zealand for sure. That’s what we would like to do.”
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