Kai Kara-France ready for a tough fight at UFC Shenzhen; not amused by Henry Cejudo’s ‘theatrics’

This Saturday night at UFC Shenzhen, Kai Kara-France will return to the Octagon for the first time since UFC 234 in February.

The Kiwi flyweight has won seven straight, including two inside the UFC. The fight will be a return to China for Kara-France who spent much of his pre-UFC career fighting there.

Kara-France spoke with Fight News Australia about his upcoming fight in China against Mark De La Rosa, the upcoming UFC 243 card, UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo’s and more.

How does it feel to be back fighting in China?

Hong Kong is only half an hour away and that’s where I made my international debut so I’ve got a bit of a fan base over here.

I’ve fought here 6 times now and my style of fighting is similar to the Chinese style which is action-packed striking, pressure fighting and that’s what I plan on doing come fight night on Saturday.

Kai kara-France cuts weight in Shenzhen (Credit: Jeff Sainlar)

My size and my weight class over here is the size of the average person so they will give us a bit more respect than the American fan base. I feel that is why we are on the main card, my first main card so that is something to be excited about.

On being given a car and having the opportunity to solely focus on training 

When I get these little things like that, I don’t take it for granted. People see that I have worked hard to get all these things. When I get things for ‘free’ it’s not for free, it’s stuff that I actually had to earn.

I take it as a blessing.

Being able to do this as a full-time job, being able to travel and fight full time, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. To now be financially stable and to be given cars and I actually gave my old car to my mum, it is a nice feeling and it takes a bit of pressure off you. I can just focus on what I need to do which is just train.

Fighting Mark De La Rosa at UFC Shenzhen

I’ve dedicated ten weeks’ day in, day out to this date. That’s why I feel confident because I have put everything into this and I’ve gone over every scenario of what could happen. Three round war or a first-round KO, I’m going to put the pressure on this guy and see what he’s made of and make a statement.

He’s got tendencies that we have seen that we want to exploit.

I’m ready to let my hands go but I’ve been wrestling a lot in this camp.  I know Mark is a grappler and known for his ground game and I want to test my skills. When I prepare for these fights, I set a high standard because I know I’m fighting the world’s best.

Eventually, I want to fight for the title and I just got to keep chipping away, take one guy out at a time and Mark is the guy this time.

After training in Shenzhen (Credit: Jeff Sainlar)

A quick turnaround for UFC 243 in Melbourne 

After Mark, I would love to fight on the Melbourne card five weeks after. I’ve done quicker turnarounds. I remember when I was campaigning for that Auckland card back in 2016, I fought three times in seven weeks so I know it can be done. But I am not looking past Mark, I respect his skills too much.

On Henry Cejudo’s ‘theatrics’ 

I see Cejudo trying to get a fight with Valentina (Shevchenko) to become the first transgender champ, he needs to stop the theatrics and stick to fighting because it’s getting pretty bad. I saw the stuff he’s doing with Dominic Cruz and Uriah Faber, the guys a flyweight, he needs to stick to flyweight. There’s a lot of guys in our division now that he needs to keep an eye on including myself.

I know him well I lived with him and I saw him again in Melbourne. He’s not like that at all when you meet him, he’s just doing it all for entertainment.

But when you know a guy and you see the stunts that he’s pulling and the trash talk he’s saying, it’s just like ‘come on mate this is ridiculous,’ I kind of want to unfollow you just because it’s getting so bad now.

I guess it sells tickets so that’s the kind of angle he’s taking. It’s not my angle but I guess each to their own, but he just needs to stick at what he’s good at because he’s not good at trash talking.

Pictured: Kai Kara-France (Credit: Jasmin Frank, Fight News Australia)

We do message from time to time in the lead up to fights saying good luck and that sort of thing. But I wouldn’t go train with him anymore just because we are in the same division and I could fight him eventually so it wouldn’t be right.

It’s a young man’s sport. I think he’s just over thirty-one or thirty-two now, so, he’s on the back end of his career. He’s done a lot already, so, if I’m fighting for the title I’d imagine when the UFC come back to Auckland and I was in title contention and it was me against Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title at spark arena, that would be a dream come true, but it’s something that is a fantasy right now. All I’m thinking about is Mark and come Saturday, that’s all that is on my mind.

New Zealand MMA and City Kickboxing

It’s booming right now, that’s why I’m saying it would be ideal for the UFC to come back pretty soon after that Melbourne card.

Half the guys are filling the Melbourne card out and at our gym City Kickboxing, it’s a contagious atmosphere, so many guys are getting ready for fights.

Dan (Hooker)  and Izzy (Adesanya) are five weeks out and I think Alex (Volkanovski) gets in this weekend to start training for Max Holloway. The same weekend as the Melbourne card there is an Eternal card, a local card in Melbourne. I think we have five guys on that card as well, so it’s going to be a massive week for the gym.

Kai Kara-France

Kai Kara-France (Credit: Jeff Sainlar)

There’s a lot of young guys at our gym and they give me a hard time, it’s pretty crazy that they are still amateurs. It’s kind of exciting to know that we do have nine or ten guys similar weight to me that give me a hard time, that are making their pro debuts real soon and I can add to their game and they can learn off me.

I can show them the pathway to go and get around all the stuff I had to go through. Some of it wasn’t necessary, some of it was. Training overseas, learning how to actually train and then coming home and implementing that into the City Kickboxing system. Now we have been able to trim the fat and there’s a bypass of all that stuff that you don’t actually need to get to that UFC level. I’m happy to be a part of the movement of mixed martial arts in New Zealand and it’s an exciting time for us.

Eternal MMA announces Melbourne debut on October 4; three title bouts confirmed

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.