Success breeds success at City Kickboxing as Kai Kara-France seeks to become the gym’s third UFC champion


There are eight male weight classes in the UFC and if Kai Kara-France beats Brandon Moreno Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas in the co-main event of UFC 277three of them will have champions representing City Kickboxing in New Zealand.

It would be a remarkable achievement for the biggest gymnasium in the United States, but it’s almost mind-boggling to consider coming from a small country that isn’t known for consistently producing world-class fighters.

Kara-France and Moreno will fight for the interim flyweight title in a rematch of a thrilling battle Moreno won by decision at UFC 245. If Kara-France wins, he will join middleweight Israel Adesanya and the featherweight Alex Volkanovski as UFC champions.

Volkanovski is No. 2 and Adesanya No. 3 on the UFC pound-for-pound rankings. Kara-France would surely join them in the Top 15 if they beat Moreno.

“There is something special happening in these four walls at City,” said Kara-France.

Success breeds success and the fact that fighters like Adesanya and Volkanovski succeed so wildly at the highest level of the sport has worked its way into the team. Their teammates got to see what Adesanya and Volkanovski were doing and it was inspiring.

They trained with them. They ate with them. They watched them. And eventually they started to learn from them.

“We all push each other to improve and reach greater heights,” Volkanovski said. “There is no ego but there are no shortcuts. Everyone in it has the same goal, to be the best, and we work to improve each other.

It’s not like Kara-France came out of nowhere. Prior to fighting Moreno at UFC 245, he was on an eight-fight winning streak and had won 13 of 14. But he was edged out by Moreno at UFC 245 and after a victory over Tyson Nam, was submitted by Brandon Royval.

It looked like he was going to fall back into the peloton, that he might have reached his peak. However, none of his teammates believed it.

“Kai is so talented,” Adesanya said. “He can do so many things.”

UFC champions Alexander Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya pose with teammate Kai Kara-France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images for UFC)

Kara-France was not going to settle. He watched how his teammates weathered adversity and was determined to do the same. He could have kept doing what he was doing and been one of the best fighters in the world in his class.

But being one of the best fighters in his class didn’t do much for Kara-France. Being the best in his division is the only thing that motivated him. And so he pushed himself and picked up three straight wins.

He bounced back from the loss to Royval by knocking out Rogerio Bontorin late in the first round of their fight at UFC 259. He dominated former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt at UFC 269, stopping him in the first , then beat Askar Askarov in three rounds. in March in Columbus, Ohio.

The success of the guys he worked with every day pushed him to the next level.

“About the standards you hold for yourself, and keep them high, and what you do every day, those little ones eventually become big ones,” Kara-France said of what he learned. champions in his gym. “And that’s where you really start to see success, when you show up every day. And that doesn’t mean getting into gym wars and putting your body on the line.

“It means how you talk to yourself and what you do every day to improve yourself. It also means in family life, being the best husband and the best father and the best gymnasium, being the best athlete and the best fighter in the UFC. It’s just that mentality of pursuing being the best and asking more of yourself. You have 24 hours in the day. What are you doing to maximize that and what are you doing to separate yourself from the rest? And that’s what I did in this camp. I just checked all the boxes, made no excuses and did everything I could.

He is a heavy underdog for Moreno, who is a -200 favorite at BetMGM. Kara-France is +165. He is not bothered by probabilities, although he does not understand them.

And they left him a little something to prove. He was annoyed that he didn’t get the credit he felt he deserved for defeating Garbrandt. Most said Garbrandt’s best days were over. Now being an underdog again only stirs the competitive juices in him even more.

“What I want to do for this Brandon fight is I want to show that I’m on another level,” he said. “And when I make it look easy, people aren’t going to be like, ‘Oh, man. Brandon is washed. He should retire. “They’re going to say how handsome Kai was, how he looks like a champion already, he’s where he’s supposed to be.” And that’s what I intend to do. And I’m happy to be the underdog. I’m probably the underdog if I’m not mistaken.

“I’ve been an underdog all my career. That’s how it’s always been. And I’ve always been the smaller fighter. But it adds fuel to me, adds fuel to the fire. And it makes me come out and shock everybody and show everybody what I’m made of, who I am, what I stand for. And I’m happy about it. »