Israel Adesanya has apologised for comments he made in a press conference where he said he would drop his opponent "like the Twin Towers".
The Kiwi UFC middleweight champion made the comment last week ahead of his upcoming fight against title challenger Yoel Romero on March 8.
"He's human like anyone else ... I'll touch him enough times. I'll touch him enough times, and eventually he'll crumble like the Twin Towers," Adesanya said in reference to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, where almost 3,000 people died.
After receiving jeers and groans from the media, Adesanya added: "Too soon?"
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The 30-year-old has since come under fire from fans and fellow fighters since the comment, with rival middleweight Paulo Costa hitting out at Adesanya's "joke".
"You are a disgusting piece of s***," Paulo said on Twitter. "How dare you make a joke disrespecting the thousands who died and the heroic firefighters and police. I will really kill you, dirty kiwi."
Adesanya, who is known for his prolific trash talk in MMA circles, has since taken to Instagram to apologise for the comments.
"The comment in the last story sums up how I feel about this situation. I never made a joke about people dying or made light of the tragic event that was 9/11," he said in an Instagram story in reference to a fan's comment about the controversy.
"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 on this one and for that I'm sorry. I'll be more careful in future with my words."
Adesanya also made headlines locally earlier this month after he was named sportsman of the year at the Halberg Awards, where he called out the "culture of tall poppy syndrome" in New Zealand.
His upcoming fight against Romero will be his first title defence of the UFC middleweight title he won last year.