It was the speech that has got all of the New Zealand sports media talking, but was of no surprise to anyone who was at the Wanganui Racecourse's Eulogy Lounge three months ago.
Expat Whanganui fighter Israel Adesanya broke fresh ground at the 57th Halberg Awards on Thursday night when he became the first combat sport athlete in over 50 years to win the Sportsman of the Year trophy.
The accolade came after an outstanding 2019 where Adesanya won the UFC interim middleweight title and then unified it with a knockout victory over Kiwi-born Aussie champion Robert Whittaker in front of over 57,000 fans in Melbourne.
An excellent orator, Adesanya used his platform to recognise the top New Zealand boxers and martial artists who had come before him and did not receive Halberg recognition, before concluding with a reproach against 'tall poppy syndrome' – a culture of tearing down achievers under the guise of making them 'humble'.
There had been debate before the awards about whether an MMA exponent would or should be recognised ahead of athletes in more mainstream sports, and even with his success, Adesanya was not about to spare any bandwagon jumpers – pointing out there would be people in the audience who may be applauding, but he knew they were "salty" that a fighter was getting the gong.
Being on the doorstep of history, Adesanya's home town supporters had already heard similar thoughts, although delivered without admonitions, when Sport Whanganui became New Zealand's first major charitable trust with national ties to recognise him with their major prizes, at the 2019 Whanganui Sports Awards.
On that November evening, just like on Thursday at Vector Arena, Adesanya made it clear he was accepting the platitudes as a way to inspire the next generation of young fighters so they could see that their achievements might be held in the same esteem as rugby, cricket, netball and others.
"They'll get recognised as legitimate athletes, not just some thugs - 'aw, they just like to kick and punch bags or whatever'.
"People don't understand the work that goes into this, the hours."
Adesanya kept up that message on Thursday when interviewed by Sky Sports James McOnie back at his table.
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"You have to be [improving your game]. It's not really about a competition with anyone else, you have to be better than yourself, yesterday.
"Combat sports in New Zealand, you guys slept on us for awhile, but it now it's a resurgence.
"Like I said, we're coming in strong, so for me, I keep that same energy and I keep going."
Top of that list for Adesanya (18-0) is his upcoming defence of the UFC Middleweight title against Cuban-American Yoel Romero(13-4) in Las Vegas on March 8, NZ time.
"But next weekend, right in this building is UFC Auckland, and I'm sure there's some tickets available," Adesanya, taking the time to plug his City Kickboxing team mates and the other Kiwis on the card.
"We've got Daniel Hooker, Kai Kara-France and Brad Riddell – Quake City – shaking it, like I said, defending the land.
"So if haven't, get your tickets, you've never seen anything like a UFC live event before, I'm telling you."