Kiwi champion Israel Adesanya admits he may have crossed the line with claims that his next opponent would "crumble like the Twin Towers".
Expressed at an Auckland media conference to promote Adesanya's first UFC middleweight title defence against Cuban Yoel Romero, the comments were an obvious a reference to the 2001 terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Centre that killed thousands.
"He's human like anyone else and everyone likes to make this myth about, 'Oh, he's steel, like kicking steel', or you hit him and he's he doesn't fall," said the newly annointed NZ Sportsman of the Year.
"I'll touch him enough times and eventually he'll crumble like the Twin Towers... too soon?"
The jib drew a decidedly mixed response even from a parochial home audience at the event and had social media buzzing afterwards.
"You're a disgusting piece of shit," tweeted Brazilian rival Paulo Costa. "How dare you make a joke disrespecting the thousands who died, and the heroic firefighters and police.
"I will really kill you, dirty kiwi."
The reaction had Adesanya scrambling to Instagram on Monday morning, trying to step back from his outburst.
"I never made a joke about people dying or made light of the tragic event that was 9/11," he posted on Instagram.
"I was simply rambling and my brain worked faster than my mouth in a moment to chose the wrong euphemism.
"You speak on the mic enough times and you're bound to miss the mark with some bars. I did it on this one and for that I'm sorry.
'I'll be more careful in future with my words."
Adesanya and Romero, 42, are matched to face one another at UFC 248 in Las Vegas on March 8, the Kiwi's first outing since he took the UFC belt off Aussie Robert Whittaker last November.
Costa was another candidate for the bout, but is currently recovering from bicep surgery.
Earlier this month, Adesanya claimed Sportsman of the Year honours at the Halberg Awards and took the opportunity to highlight the 'tall poppy syndrome' rife in New Zealand.
"When you see somebody rising, you want to tear them down, because you feel inadequate and you want to call it humble," he said.
"I am extraordinarily humble, believe me, but you'll never know that, because you never get to know me.
"Understand this, if you see one of us shining, whether it be the netball team, the Blackcaps, the sailors... pump them up! Embrace them, because if they win, we win.
"If I win, you win! Understand that."