UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has been stranded overseas by the COVID-19 isolation travel voucher system.
The Nigerian-Kiwi travelled to the United States with teammate Brad Riddell to assist Carlos Ulberg in his UFC debut in Las Vegas last week.
The trio were scheduled to arrive back in New Zealand on Monday, but the recently introduced isolation voucher system meant they couldn't secure a place in quarantine until mid-December.
Flights were booked in late September, before the new system was introduced, while the City Kickboxing team were in Abu Dhabi for Adesanya's title defence against Paolo Costa.
City Kickboxing spokesperson Mike Angove says the trio received no direct notification from the airline or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that they needed a travel voucher to return home.
Head coach Eugene Bareman, who is back home preparing Junior Fa for his December boxing bout with Joseph Parker, says Adesanya and his teammates are not seeking special treatment, but have questioned the severe lack of communication.
"There are people in far worse situations than ourselves, and we really feel for those with dying or sick relatives or children, and people who’ve lost jobs or homes, who are now facing even greater stress due to the lack of capacity in quarantine," Bareman says.
"Clearly, there’s been an oversight if people like us who booked while overseas, prior to the system being introduced, weren’t informed by either the airlines or immigration as soon as the system went live."
"Given the Government is effectively using airlines to screen people for vouchers before allowing them to board a plane for New Zealand, it's difficult to understand why the airlines weren’t also compelled to contact people with pre-existing bookings scheduled to arrive after November 3.
"The lack of capacity is also concerning. An influx of people returning home at Christmas is entirely predictable and you have to question why more focus wasn’t put on increasing that capacity.
"I want to be clear that we support the Government’s efforts to keep New Zealand COVID-19 free, but it seems there were gaps in communications and capacity planning, which will see many NZ citizens unable to return and undergoing more anguish in what has already been a difficult year.
"The team is not asking for special treatment, they simply want to draw attention to the plight of many Kiwi citizens in more difficult situations than they are in and we don’t currently believe is being voiced."
A Managed Isolation and Quarantine spokesperson told Newshub it was "each individual’s responsibility to make sure they hold a voucher for MIQ, as they are legally required to do".
"MIAS [Managed Isolation Allocation System] helps us manage the timing of people entering New Zealand so we can guarantee their place in a managed isolation facility, which is necessary to keep them and all New Zealanders safe.
"Everyone arriving in New Zealand is now required to present a voucher to airlines in order to board their flight - or have a special exemption from using the system.
"We’ve worked hard to ensure those travelling knew they needed to book a space in managed isolation and airlines have also been providing this information to their passengers.
"Thousands of people with existing airline bookings booked their vouchers in the first hours that the Managed Isolation Allocation System went live in the beginning of October.
"An extensive awareness campaign has been underway since September. This has resulted in people from 212 different countries accessing our Managed Isolation Allocation System website.
"Since the campaign started on September 25, around 95 percent of passengers arriving at airports have had a voucher.
"Managed Isolation and Quarantine will not grant returning New Zealanders a voucher just because of who they are or what they do. Everyone is treated equally - that’s fundamental to the system.
"We need to ensure that there is fair and open access to all New Zealanders returning home."
"There is a very restrictive emergency allocation criteria - this is a last resort option and the threshold is extremely high.
"To apply, you must be a NZ citizen or resident-class visa holder without a voucher who has an imminent threat to your life or serious risk to health, which requires urgent travel to New Zealand. We expect that very few approvals would be granted and it is important to note that people still need to complete their 14 days' managed isolation."
Adesanya will not be able to join Fa’s training camp, where he was expected to provide quality sparring for the undefeated heavyweight.
The Nigerian-born Aucklander will also miss several scheduled charity appearances, including the upcoming NZ Breakers pre-season game, involving several local celebrities.
Riddell’s partner is in the final stages of pregnancy and he could miss the birth of his first child, while the gym is also concerned Ulberg's United States visa may not be extended and he could become an 'illegal alien'.