Kai Kara-France is set to become New Zealand’s second UFC champion as he lines up Brandon Moreno at UFC277 – proving he’s come a very long way since he suffered an attack. bullying at a Kiwi school with very famous former students.
The diminutive Kiwi has enjoyed a rapid rise in the flyweight division, recently knocking out the deadly Russian Askar Askarov in a dominating display in March.
Champion Deiveson Figueiredo has called out Kara-France and said he deserves the next shot at his title after three fights against Moreno – but an injury means the 29-year-old will fight the Mexican for the interim title on Sunday.
Kara-France believes he will bring a third title to the Auckland City Kickboxing gymnasium, which boasts lightweight champion Israel Adesanya and featherweight king Alex Volkanovski.
“I think I’ve been the champion for the last three years. That’s what I learned from Izzy and Alex,” he told – Australia.
“You don’t get anything, we don’t take that for granted.”
Kiwi UFC star Kai Kara France (pictured) is a proud Maori man – and is looking to become the latest in an impressive line of UFC champions from Australia and New Zealand
Kara-France, a proud Kiwi of Maori descent who regularly performs hakas at weigh-ins and before his fights, admitted he turned to the world of MMA after being bullied in high school due to her size.
He started fighting at age 10 after being taken to a class with his friend’s father. He immediately connected with the other people in the gym, drawn to the sense of community.
“It was the personal growth that I loved in martial arts. It was something that team sports just didn’t have,” he said.
Kara-France, attended Auckland’s prestigious Mount Albert Grammar – which counts Sonny Bill Williams among its esteemed alumni.
“I was harassed a lot. I didn’t want to go to school, so my parents introduced me to martial arts. I never thought this shy kid in high school would turn into this,” he told – Australia.
“It’s crazy how things are going.”
The 29-year-old is looking to join his City Kickboxing teammates Israel Adesanya (centre) and Alex Volkanovski (left) as the region’s latest champion.
The 29-year-old, who welcomed his first child with wife Char during the pandemic, said he was at a local sandwich chain in Auckland when someone approached him claiming to have been at the same school.
“He was walking past and he came up to me and said we were going to high school together. He’s a little bigger now, he’s a trader and he said he’s following my journey,” the flyweight told the – Australia.
“I said, ‘Brother, I should hide you now.’
His City Kickboxing teammate Dan Hooker also attended Mount Albert – but Kara-France says the school refuses to recognize their accomplishments.
“I guess they think we’re just thugs fighting in the streets,” Kara-France said.
“I don’t waste my time thinking about it too much, but if they want me back to talk, the price has only gone up.”
He joined Adesanya in criticizing the New Zealand government’s treatment of fighters, particularly via Covid where special travel exemptions were given to All Blacks, but not them.
“We were the only organized sport during the pandemic, we helped a lot of people get away from the reality of lockdowns,” he said.
Adesanya said he would never fight in New Zealand again.
Kara-France (pictured with his wife Char and their new child) recently had a run-in with a bully who terrorized him at school
Set to become the region’s last champion, Kara-France said he was now driven by “legacy” and said he would try to bring a unified title fight against Figueiredo to Australia.
“I’m not overwhelmed by it, I expected it. I’m ready to be the next face of this division,” he said.
“I’m teammates of world champions, I’ve seen what they have to do. It’s like deja vu, it’s fate.
Kai Kara-France will take on Brandon Moreno at UFC277 live from the American Airlines Center starting Sunday noon (AEST).