Mixed Martial Arts: BMW drops Israel Adesanya as ambassador after social media rape threats

Prestige car manufacturer BMW has dropped Israel Adesanya as an ambassador, after the UFC star threatened to "rape" a competitor last week. 

The inflammatory comments were directed at fellow UFC middleweight Kevin Holland, after the American had made similarly disparaging comments in his direction.

The 2019 Halberg Sportsman of the Year was set to be unveiled as a BMW New Zealand ambassador on Monday.

But on Friday, BMW said it had decided not to push ahead with the partnership. 

"Due to the comments made by an athlete online, we have reviewed our pending association with said athlete and we have decided not to push forward with a specific ambassador for the brand at this time in New Zealand," BMW says. 

Earlier on Friday, Adesanya apologised, saying his comments "crossed a line". 

"Last weekend fight talk escalated to a point in which I crossed a line. I understand the gravity of this word and how it can affect and hurt other people apart from my opponent, although that was NEVER my intention," he said on Twitter. 

"I am still to growing under the spotlight, and I take this as a lesson to be more selective with words under pressure (sic)." 

The apology comes after backlash from anti-rape groups and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

On Thursday, the Sports and Recreation Minister said nobody should be making "jokes or flippant comments" about such a topic. 

"I'm sure Israel understands that, I believe he has deleted the tweet in question. It will be up to the UFC as to what they do," he told Radio New Zealand.

"But I would certainly be making clear to him - and to anybody actually - that we have to take rape seriously. It's not an issue that anyone should be making jokes or flippant comments about at all."

On Thursday, Adesanya seemed defiant in his comments, Tweeting "Incoming clickbait NZ media in 3, 2, 1…", along with a GIF of a man eating popcorn. 

He followed it up with another tweet, saying it was "all about the clout". 

Since his promotional debut in early 2018, Adesanya has established himself as one of the UFC's most marketable fighters.

He was featured as the cover athlete on EA Sports' UFC video game, and recently signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with sportswear giants Puma.

The 31-year-old has amassed a huge social media audience, with over 4.6 million followers on Instagram and 866,000 on Twitter.

The reigning UFC middleweight world champion, Adesanya lost his first professional MMA fight earlier this month, falling via unanimous decision to Jan Blachowicz in an attenmpt to win the light heavyweight belt.

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