UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has paid tribute to fallen City Kickboxing teammate Fau Vake, sharing an exchange between the pair from earlier in the year.
Vake spent the last week fighting for his life in Auckland hospital after being attacked by four men in the early hours of last Sunday. This morning, representatives from Auckland's City Kickboxing gym confirmed Vake had died from his injuries.
"It is with inexplicable sadness almost seven days to the hour after his hospital admission, Fau's fight to find his way back to us ended," a statement from City Kickboxing said today.
"At this tragic time, the Vake family and City Kickboxing ask for time to grieve and reflect on the loss of Fau, a father, a son and a much-loved brother to us all.
"We will speak when the time is right to ensure Fau's loss is not forgotten, but for now please respect our privacy."
The 25-year-old father of one was a promising talent under the bright lights, and impressed with his striking ability in both kickboxing and mixed martial arts. He was one of three Vake's training at City Kickboxing, alongside brothers John and James.
Vake last fought in late April as part of the Undisputed Fight Series event in Wairarapa, where he won by TKO in the first round in the card's main event.
In an Instagram story, Adesanya shared an exchange between himself and Vake from January this year accompanied by a teary-eyed emoji, which provided a small glimpse into Vake's personality. The conversation read:
Adesanya: "Dunno what y'all was yarning about but you left an impression bruv."
Vake: "Just some good yarns about life toko."
Adesanya: "Good lad. Even Matt singing your praises too. Much love tokoua."
Vake: "F***k man ... they know how to make a man blush hahaha, much love toko."
Four men had been arrested and charged in relation to the incident on Symonds St last weekend, and police today confirmed new charges would be laid in the case.
In the wake of the altercation, City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman has led a chorus of voices asking for harsher punishments for 'coward punches' - where someone attacks another from behind. A National Party member's 2018 bill to create a coward punch offence with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, was rejected New Zealand Parliament rejected a bill in its first reading.
Australian states New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria all introduced coward punch laws in 2014.
"It's hard for us to fathom why that law wasn't passed through at its first reading and clearly there isn't enough of a deterrent," Bareman told the AM Show.
"Clearly, our Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi doesn't have his ear to the street.
"He is welcome to come with me and go for a walk on a Saturday night through town, and he will get a figurative slap in the face, because there is a lot [of violence] going on in town.
"We are a little bit more acutely aware of what a punch can do and the type of power it can generate. When you go up behind someone and hit them in the head, your only intent is to inflict as much damage as you can and, ultimately, that is death."