Former UFC champion Israel Adesanya is back in the headlines this week, and it’s not for anything positive. News recently broke that the City Kickboxing star has become the latest notable name in MMA to get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, joining former champions like Pat Miletich, BJ Penn, and current heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Just three weeks ahead of his recent title defense against Sean Strickland, Adesanya was picked up in Auckland with a blood-alcohol level nearing twice the legal limit.
“Court documents show the international star was charged with driving a car on Wellesley St in Auckland Central with 87 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 50 milligrams,” a report from the New Zealand Herald states. According to reports, Adesanya did not contest the charges—which carry a maximum penalty of $4,500 or 3-months in prison.
“I am disappointed with my decision to drive, It was wrong,” Israel Adesanya said in a statement to the New Zealand Herald. “I know that people might follow me and I want them to know I do not think this behavior is acceptable.”
Michael Bisping gives thoughts on Israel Adesanya’s DUI
Following the news, former UFC champion Michael Bisping gave his thoughts on Israel Adesanya’s guilty plea. While he characterized drunk driving as “disgusting,” the ‘Count’ also suggested fans shouldn’t judge Adesanya too harshly.
According to Bisping, Adesanya’s blood-alcohol level was much more in line with a normal evening out rather than suggesting that the Nigerian-born New Zealander was smashed behind the wheel.
“When you see it—the headline—it sounds really bad,” Bisping said of Adesanya’s arrest on a recent episode of his podcast. “And, of course, drink driving is. It’s a terrible thing, because so many innocent people lose their lives—and I don’t think anyone can justify that. But what I said on [my YouTube channel], when you look into it, it’s not like he rolled out of a nightclub, hammered drunk. It’s not like he was on a session with the guys all weekend and got behind the wheel of a car.
“And I said this as well… but 50 miligrams, if that’s the legal limit? If the government—the New Zealand government, at that, mandate a lot of stuff—if they say you can drive a car at 50 miligrams, that means you’re sober, you maybe had one beer. So he was a little bit over that. So he’s had, like, two beers, two glasses of wine, maybe a cocktail at dinner? And he’s had a bad judgement call. He thought, ‘I’ve had a meal, it’s been a couple of hours, I’ll be good.’ I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I’m just trying to piece it together. And he made a mistake.”
For his part, Bisping’s co-host—light heavyweight contender Anthony Smith—agreed.
“I’m not saying he’s not wrong,” Smith chimed in. “Because he is above the legal limit, and that’s wrong, and he needs to be punished. But let’s not pretend like this guy’s out here, you know, he’s front-flipping a vehicle into a house or something.”
“If we’re all honest with ourselves,” Bisping continued. “I think most people—I know I have. I don’t drink drive, I don’t get behind the wheel of a car drunk, but I have made a judgement call. I’ve had a beer at dinner, and sometimes I might have had two. But I think, ‘It’s been a few hours, I’m good. I’m fine.’ And I think most people have done that. I am not defending Israel Adesanya. Because drink driving, innocent people lose their lives. And it’s a disgusting thing. But, I think if most people are honest? I think they could admit to having a beer, thinking ‘I’m fine,’ and jumping behind the wheel.”
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Anthony Smith admits he has a couple DUIs as well
With Michael Bisping putting in his two cents that “most people” have had a drink or two and got behind the wheel of a car, Anthony Smith took a moment to bring his own history into the mix, for the sake of transparency.
“Yeah, I have,” Smith stated after Bisping’s own admission. “I think transparency is only fair here. I have a couple DUIs. I have a couple. And I’ve been very honest about this in the past, I haven’t hidden it, one of them was a car accident. So, when I say there is levels to—he’s wrong no matter what, but there’s levels to how bad we’re going to quote-unquote ‘crucify’ him. Like, is he wrong? For sure, I’ll say it a hundred times, he’s definitely wrong. But it could be much worse, we’ve seen much worse, and I’ve done much worse, personally.”
As for the details of the incident Smith alluded to? That happened all the way back in 2009. In a 2012 interview, ‘Lionheart’ gave a more detailed explanation, noting that he was in his teens and had turned to alcohol in the wake of a bad relationship and the death of his grandfather who had been his principal father figure.
“I was out partying with friends, and I ended up getting in this really bad car accident trying to make it home,” Smith said in an interview with MMA Junkie.
“The car accident was actually at 11 o’clock in the afternoon. I was still drinking from the night before. They found me unresponsive after the wreck. I hit a house. It was pretty bad. I almost killed myself.”
Smith went on to reveal that he woke up on life support and was relieved to find that he wasn’t paralyzed as a result of the accident. The fighter fractured his cheek bone, and damaged his lungs, and required a large number of stitches to his face, but didn’t take any real longterm damage.
“I didn’t know what really happened,” Smith explained. “So my mom gave me her phone, and we were typing out messages to each other since I couldn’t talk. The first thing I asked is, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘You got in a car accident.’ I didn’t really want to ask, but I typed, ‘Did I hurt anybody?’ The whole room started crying. It was crazy because they were like, ‘Wow, he really doesn’t know if he killed anybody or not.’ Obviously, I didn’t. I was by myself. I didn’t hit anybody. I just wrecked it in a one-car accident. I fell asleep on a gravel road while drunk driving, and I went in a ditch and totaled it.”
“When they found me, I was unresponsive. When I came back and started to wake up, I was hammered. My alcohol level was like a 0.295. I freaked out, so they sedated me, and that’s how I ended up on a ventilator. It was crazy.”
Hopefully this stands as a moment Adesanya can learn from. As an athlete who recently talked about hiring daily tutoring for his future offspring to give them a home school education, it seems safe to say that he has the money to afford an Uber next time he goes out on the town.
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