In 2012, I asked one of New Zealand’s top mixed martial arts coaches who is the most promising young fighter in the country, his reply was Auckland’s Kai Kara-France. Fast forward five years and Kara-France is proving that foresight to be true, as well as living up to his “Don’t Blink” nickname.
At only 24 years of age, Kara-France is proving to be one of the most exciting flyweight prospects in the world. In a division that isn’t known for its knockouts, Kara-France is an exception to the rule. A winner of 14 professional fights with nine of them being (T)KO victories, Kara-France has heavy hands and can put his opponent away with only one shot.
This was highlighted for the world to see when Kara-France featured on the 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter last year. In his first fight on the show, Kara-France walked into the cage and knocked his opponent out with one punch 34 seconds into the first round. The victory would be the only knock out on the season where the winner got the chance to face current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Despite scoring the only knockout, Kara-France was not offered another fight with the promotion.
“I’m not too sure why they didn’t sign me after the show” Kara-France told Fight News Australia. “In a division that doesn’t have knock outs, it’s a weird thing that they didn’t sign me you know, I think it was more of just bad timing, there wasn’t any spots opening up and they would rather put me in the Asian market so I guess they were just trying to wait it out” he continued.
Many fans were impressed with the young Kiwi and believed that he at least deserved a fight on the shows finale, something that is often done for Ultimate Fighter contestants who have a noteworthy performance on the show. Luckily for Kara-France, as one door closes, another one opens.
With no word coming from the UFC that he would get a fight with the promotion any time soon, and not one to enjoy sitting around, Kara-France jumped at the opportunity when offered to fight in the Rizin Fighting Federation in Japan. Despite losing a tough decision, Kara-France relished the opportunity to test his skills for the same promoters that ran the infamous Pride Fighting Championships.
“It was a good experience in what used to be the fight capital of the world” Kara-France said. “Fighting on Pride and stuff, that’s pretty much what it was for me, same promoters as Pride just with a different name. It was the same set up at the Saitama Super Arena with about 20,000 people there, it was cool being a part of it and just soaking it all in, but it’s just one of those things, he was the hometown guy and had the better game plan on the night, but it was a great experience” Kara-France said of the defeat.
Disappointed in his performance and needing a winning streak to have any chance of competing in the UFC, Kara-France knew he would need to string together some impressive victories in quick succession when the UFC announced they would be heading to his hometown in June. With fights being hard to come by in his usual flyweight division, Kara-France decided he would take fights up a weight class if he needed to, in order to ensure he got the victories he needed to force the UFC to take notice.
The first was against Rodolfo Marques at Hex Fight Series 8 in Melbourne this past April. In a fight, he took on two weeks’ notice and up a weight class, Kara-France managed to knock Marques out cold with one punch in the third round. Three weeks after his victory over Marques, and once again at bantamweight, Kara-France flew to China where he picked up another knockout victory, this time in the first round.
“If you look at the last two guys I have fought, they are not chumps they are veterans, Rodolfo was 22-8, a black belt in jiu-jitsu and at a higher weight class. The Chinese guy was 11-7 at bantamweight as well, so I’m fighting at a higher weight class, I’m walking in at that weight and knocking guys out, if it’s a weight issue or something that they think I can’t make the weight or something it’s not, it’s just hard to get fights at flyweight these days” Kara-France said of his bantamweight victories.
With two consecutive knockout victories in a short space of time, Kara-France is now campaigning to get on the UFC show in his hometown on June 11. There are many unsigned fighters looking to be on the UFC’s return to Auckland, but Kara-France believes he is ahead of the pack because he has gone out and taken fights.
I’ve taken more of a risk fighting quite frequently with a short turnaround. With great risk comes great reward, so I let my work do the talking and made some statements.
With only six weeks to go, Kara-France believes it is now his time to get into the octagon and turn his dreams into reality and represent his country on the biggest stage.
“That’s the reason I started this sport, to be on a UFC card in my hometown, in Auckland at Vector Arena. That motivates me every day to get one percent better. At the end of the day if that happens, then all the sacrifice and all the fights that I’ve been taking all around the world are worth it, so it would be a dream come true.” He said.