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With the UFC flyweight division seemingly gaining stability again, Kai Kara-France has mapped out his next couple of moves.
He takes on Mark De La Rosa this Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 15 at Universiade Sports Center in Shenzhen, China, as he looks to continue his climb up the 125-pound ranks. The night’s main card streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN.
Kara-France hopes to make a statement in the contest, then join his City Kickboxing teammates Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker on the UFC 243 card just five weeks later in Melbourne.
“I get past Mark, I would love to get on that same card as well and continue this momentum and showcase New Zealand mixed martial arts,” Kara-France told MMA Junkie. “I’m ready to make a statement in this fight and then jump back into camp and do it again in five weeks in Melbourne. That would be a dream to be on the same card as my teammates.”
Kara-France has competed numerous times in China earlier in his MMA career and is excited for the opportunity to get to perform in front of the nation’s fans again. His fight was originally a preliminary contest but has since been moved to the main card, which usually means more eyes on the contest.
“I don’t take these moments for granted,” Kara-France said. “I know there will be more people watching me, and I’m more than ready for wherever this fight goes. I know the Chinese love their striking, standup battles, so I want to deliver and put on a good performance.”
“Don’t Blink” is off to a 2-0 start to his UFC career, but after his last win over Raulin Paiva at UFC 234 this past February in Melbourne, the state of the 125-pound division was up in the air, with rumors of the promotion potentially scrapping the weight class. He was ready to make the move up to bantamweight if necessary but is glad that ultimately (at least for now), the flyweight division ended up sticking around.
“After my Melbourne fight, I was kind of ready to fight at bantamweight,” Kara-France said. “I fought half of my career at that weight class, so it wouldn’t be a big adjustment, just not having to cut too much, but I’m glad flyweight is sticking around, definitely for job security.
“Right now it feels like there’s a bit of a buzz in the division. A lot of the guys have been getting ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses. This shows that everyone in this division is dangerous, and anyone could beat anyone, so that’s why I haven’t been taking this fight lightly. I’m ranked higher than Mark, but I know he’s fought some tough dudes. That’s why I’ve put everything into this.”
De La Rosa (11-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has six career wins by the way of submission and has been able to show his high-level grappling ability in the octagon in both his wins and losses.
But Kara-France (19-7 MMA, 2-0 UFC) said he’s not worried. In fact, he’d be more than willing to go to the ground if that’s where the fight ended up.
“You’ll be surprised; wherever the fight goes, we’ll be prepared,” Kara-France said. “I don’t feel like there’s too much of a risk if I do want to take it to the ground. He’s going to be looking to take my back. He’s got a few rear-naked chokes on his resume, so I’ve got to be wary of where I’m at risk and danger, but I feel comfortable wherever this fight goes.”
Kara-France got his first taste of the UFC on “The Ultimate Fighter 24,” when he competed as a part of current UFC flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo’s team. Although he was eliminated early, he was then able to notch five wins outside of the octagon, getting the call back to the UFC.
With the flyweight division so thin, Kara-France knows he may be only a few solid wins away from a crack at the title. He will have come full circle, and should Cejudo still be champion by that time, he will get to compete against his former coach, someone he’s looked up to even before his time on the show.
“There are a few exciting matchups happening in the next few months,” Kara-France said. “I’m 2-0 in the UFC, on a seven-fight win streak overall. One or two fights, I’m definitely in the mix, as well.
“I would like to fight Henry Cejudo one day, if he’s still champion. I’ve looked up to him my whole career, and to see it right in front of me, knowing I could be fighting him in the next year or so is exciting.”
However, Kara-France currently has his hands full with the always-game De La Rosa, who has split his first four appearances in the UFC but has taken on high-level competition.
Kara-France is expecting an entertaining, back-and-forth battle on fight night, as he hopes to emerge as a top contender.
“A lot of pressure, high pace,” Kara-France said. “If you watch flyweight fights, you’ve got to keep your eye on it because you don’t know when a fight will get finished. They call me ‘Don’t Blink’ because I’ve got a few knockouts on my record, so I’m hoping to live up to that nickname and make a statement and solidify myself in the flyweight rankings. I’m ranked No. 10 right now, so I’m just going to take it fight by fight and eventually climb to that title.”
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