Kai Kara-France on UFC call up: ‘Nothing’s confirmed but it’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of time before it’s going to happen’

New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France recently won his fifth straight fight submitting his opponent in the first round. The win brought the 24 year olds professional MMA record to 17-7.

Fight News Australia recently spoke to Kara-France about the recent win, his time on The Ultimate Fighter, being asked by the UFC to fight Tim Elliot on one weeks’ notice, how close he is to signing with the UFC, the recent success of City Kickboxing and much more.

Recently winning his fifth straight fight in a row

My guy wasn’t too bad, a Chinese fighter. They are all pretty good at striking, they are all quite wild and that makes them dangerous because they are unexpected, they will just swing. We hadn’t taken him lightly; fight night came and everything went as expected. We had a feeling out process at the start, of course you want to look for the knockout in front of the home town but I wanted to be smart and be more critical. I eventually got him to the ground with a single leg, high crotch and he ended up giving up his back and then yeah, I got a first-round rear naked choke. I was happy with my performance, always want the knock out but we will take a finish where we can get it.

I was surprised about how fast I sunk the choke in. I was expecting him to try scramble out but it was in quite tight straight away. It was good to get a submission. It’s been 8 years since my last submission, but I train my ground just as much as I do striking at City Kickboxing. Everything is levelled up and don’t be surprised to see more submissions in the future

Why he fights at flyweight and bantamweight

This fight was at bantamweight. We will make the cut to fly when we need too but my recent fights have been fighting at bantam. Just ‘cos it’s a bit harder to get match ups at that weight, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t make that weight. I don’t cut too much weight for bantam, I walk in really. I am open to fight both. I still have power at bantam, I’m also the bigger fighter at fly. So, either or, whatever we get for the UFC eventually when we get the call up we will take it.

Fighting in New Zealand for the first time in five years

It was a proud moment. It’s been five years since I’ve slept in my bed on fight week so I missed that feeling and the comforts of home, eating cooked meals. There was no stress leading up to it. It’s different though, you can still get reached by all your friends and family, people asking for tickets and what not. But I guess that is expected, they all want to see you fight. It was cool to fight back home and for my girlfriend to watch me fight live for the first time. Yeah it was a good experience and hopefully I can have more in the future.

On being offered a fight in the UFC with Tim Elliot on one weeks’ notice and current situation with the organisation

For us we are in a good position to wait now. Every time we fight there’s a big risk you know, you lose and you’re at the back of the line. When my coach has been talking with the matchmaker, it’s all good things, it’s all about timing now. There’s a card I saw in Singapore in June and that could be a possibility. Just because it’s an Asia card and we are under that Asian market.

In saying that at flyweight, i’ve had call ups short notice to different countries. I got a call up to fight Tim Elliot in Canada last year.

The call ups have been happening, but that was a week notice you know, it was after my Dad’s wedding. It was just the wrong timing of things, being given short notice fights like that, if they give me a bit more notice, I’ll be more than ready to take those fights.

It was November last year, we got asked ‘what do I weigh right now?’ I said I was a bit heavier than flyweight so I couldn’t guarantee I would make that weight in a week. The guy that they did offer it too, he ended up missing weight and the whole fight got called off because he missed weight. So, that could of been me you know, so luckily we didn’t take that fight just because we want to make sure that when we do make our shot, we want to make weight and put on a show.

Right now, our gyms been getting a lot of limelight just because of Dan (Hooker), our captain doing so well. And now with Israel (Adesanya) making a statement, and Shane (Young) as well, he’s also in the UFC. We’ve got a few good fighters leading the pathway, we are close behind so every time our coach is there he’s talking to the matchmakers, dropping my name as well.

I’m still relevant, I’m still in the conversation. I’ve got my manager as well in Las Vegas, always pushing my name, so we are in talking’s now. Nothings confirmed but it’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of time before it’s going to happen.

Fighting outside the UFC has been a ‘blessing in disguise’

Last year it taught me a lot, it taught me to be patient and everything will kind of do its cause. Its helped me reassess different aspects of my game. I’ve haven’t just been picking up wins, but I’ve been working on little things that I had holes in before that have helped. I don’t see it as a bad thing how long I’ve waited. But now we are on a five-fight winning streak, so you see the motivation and the momentum is there.

I see all these different flyweights and bantamweights in the UFC now and I can definitely compete with all of them. They are not on a pedestal for me, I could beat them on any given day. I believe I should be there and I think it’s going to happen this year.

I’m going to be turning 25 at the end of this month, I’m going to just about hit the prime of my career. It’s been a blessing in disguise for sure. I’m more mature, I make better decisions and I’ve just got a better support crew around me. People that are always pushing me to be the best I can.

Being on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and training with Henry Cejudo

It was a good experience. I don’t know if I would do it again, just because to maintain flyweight it was quite hard. Six weeks you have to keep your weight really low and then being in a house full of sixteen other guys, no contact  with the outside world, no internet, TV, music or cell phone. You’re isolated but you have to just take it all in and learn as much as you can while you are there.

It was a great experience meeting all these different people and coaches. I still talk with my coach Henry Cejudo, we still keep in contact and eventually I am going to go train with him in the future. That was a good thing about The Ultimate Fighter, just making all these connections.

Nothing is set yet, we have just been talking, keeping up to date with each other. But sometime this year hopefully. I would go there just to pick his brain and his experience, definitely for that wrestling aspect.

On knocking out Rodolfo  Marques at Hex Fight Series 8

I was coming of two losses before that fight, on The Ultimate Fighter against Alexandre Pantoja and then on Rizin on New Year’s Eve in Japan. We were hungry to get the win, it had been a while so coming into that fight we took it on a weeks’ notice. I knew I was going to be the smaller fighter, we took it at a catch weight, 63 (kg). He’s a black belt, dangerous, he’s fought all the top guys in Australia and South East Asia so it was a risky fight. But we felt confident going into it because we knew I was fit so in the later rounds, that’s when we could catch him. When I caught him with that right hand, it was a great feeling, getting the knock out in his hometown and taking a vet out and putting it on my record. It was a big win for my career.

On City Kickboxing in Auckland and training with Alex Volkanovski

With my head coach Eugene Bareman, he’s been the reason for all of our success. It’s more than just an individual sport with the team we have right now, the guys you don’t even know about, they’re on the cusp as well. It’s been a team effort and we are all in a good place and I think this year we haven’t lost a fight at our gym, so that speaks volumes. We are in a good place and yeah we are ready to make it count this year.

A lot of our fighters have fought in or trained at different gyms over the world and it’s kind of been a collective pull of different ideas of training and that’s what makes us quite unique. We’ve taken all the good from other gyms and kind of used it and put it into our own system, I think that’s the kind of mentality we have at our gym. We’re always open to new things but our circle is quite small. It’s been cool even having Alex Volkanovski recognise that we have been doing good things and he came over and trained with us for his last fight, even though he fought Shane. That shows a lot that he is willing to jump in our schedule because he knows it working.

On Brad Riddell making the transition to MMA

Brad Riddell is making his debut on One FC, on that One superfight rules, so it’ muay thai in a cage. He’s adamant that he wants to make a run in MMA as well. He’s one of the hardest hitting fighters in the world at lightweight, so it’s a scary dude with small gloves.

He wants to make a name or make a bigger name and come into MMA with like what Izzy did, with the kickboxing reputation you know so, once he makes that full transition, he will be more than ready. He trains MMA even when he’s got kickboxing fights, he’s rolling all the time. I think that’s what makes him, he’s training all year-round MMA.

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My earliest combat sports memory is watching David Tua knock people out with his left hook.  I am extremely passionate about combat sports in Australia and my home country of New Zealand and I endeavour to grow the profile of martial arts and its athletes in both countries. Persistent Brazilian jiu-jitsu battler.