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Barely two months ago, Auckland’s Kai Kara-France stormed into UFC Fight Night 142 and won a “Fight of the Night”-worthy decision over Elias Garcia, pocketing $50,000 before jumping right back into camp for Melbourne’s blockbuster UFC 234 card. Since then, the 25-fight veteran has only grown in confidence, and when he marches into the Octagon Saturday, he’s predicting he’ll put on another exciting performance punctuated by a stoppage.
Speaking to Sherdog.com at the UFC 234 media day, Kara-France opened up about his life since debuting with the promotion back in December, peaking alongside City Kickboxing teammates Israel Adesanya and Shane Young and the state of the flyweight division.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said of his energy half way through fight week. “I always love fighting in Melbourne, just coming here in general. [It has] such a massive sporting culture in the city so it’s awesome to be a part of such a big event, UFC 234, and to be fighting at Rod Laver Arena. I was watching the tennis like two weeks ago, and I was like ‘I’m gonna be fighting there.’ It’s going to be pretty surreal being in the locker room and making my walk out to the cage.”
“Everything’s running really smoothly,” he continued. “Weight’s where it should be. [I’m] feeling sharp, feeling fit. I’m ready to go.”
Though Kara-France made a superlative first impression on UFC fans back in December, “Don’t Blink” says he can’t rest on his laurels, and jumping right back into training was a necessary evil.
“My life hasn’t really changed because I’ve gone straight back to the gym to get ready for this next fight,” he said. “That’s the best way to look at it -- not to look back and admire your work too much. It’s a new opponent, new event. I’ve set new goals and I’ve just kept my head down really. I feel that’s the right way to go about things.”
“I want to put on another exciting performance,” he elaborated. “Not just for myself, but for my division. We’re in a spot where you need to be exciting to keep your job. That’s what I plan on doing, I’ll be looking for the finish.”
Kara-France’s opponent, the Brazilian Raulian Paiva Frazao, is riding a 12-fight win streak and has just one defeat in 19 bouts. But Kara-France feels his experience, and familiarity with Frazao’s body-type, will make the different when they meet each other in the cage.
“Wherever the fight goes, I feel comfortable,” he said of how he matches up with Frazao. “I feel like my experience is another key factor. This isn’t my debut. I’ve fought a lot of guys that are his body type, but in saying that he’s a very worthy opponent… 18-1, 12-fight win streak. He’s got a lot of hype off the Dana White Contender Series win. I feel like it’s a good match up for us, to put on a good showcase for the division.”
“I think on the night, my experience is definitely going to be what gets me the win…” he added. “I know when an opponent is hurt and I know how to capitalise. You’re going to see a finish.”
When Kara-France last fought, he admitted to feeling a great deal of pressure given the uncertainty around the 125-pound weight class and the jitters associated with his debut. This time though, with Adesanya and Young riding the rollercoaster alongside him, he’s finding the space more comfortable to occupy.
“Fight week especially -- it’s such a unique feeling: weight cutting, getting ready for a fight, all this pressure,” he said of the experience this time around. “But to have your two teammates next to you, going through what you’re going through. You can bounce off feelings and emotions. Just doing it together makes you more comfortable. Now we’ve got our cornermen over here in Melbourne, hanging out with us.”
“It definitely feels like we’re back in the gym at City Kickboxing,” he continued. “Come fight night, that’s what’s going to take away the nerves. I’ve got so much support around me. I’m not going to worry about those usual things that stress you out on fight night. My coaches and teammates are just going to keep me level-headed. [I’m going to] make that walk out. Another night for me, another cage, different day, just another win.”
One man that will be watching Kara-France’s fight with interest on the weekend will be the division’s incumbent champion, Henry Cejudo, who served as Kara-France’s coach on the 24th season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” When asked what he would prefer “The Messenger” to do next, Kara-France admits he’d prefer he stick around at 125-pounds and rematch Joseph Benavidez.
“I told people if T.J. [came] in overconfident, that would be his downfall,” he said of Cejudo’s superlative performance last month, where he beat T.J. Dillashaw to retain the flyweight division. “That’s exactly what happened. He got clipped. He doesn’t take the same shots he could at 135. Cutting that weight -- I’ve done it a few times. Going up and down in weight [classes]. Those same shots, they’re going to hurt you. You’ve got to adjust. I feel like that’s the first time he’s cut weight in so long, [and] he hadn’t adjusted.”
“I would like him to [fight] Joseph Benavidez [next]” he said of where he wants Cejudo to go next. “I thought [Cejudo] won that last fight. It was a split decision loss. I feel like that would be a good fight for him. He’s got that momentum back. It would be a great fight for the division, that would keep more people excited about us, [and] kind of keep the ball rolling.”