- Publish Date
- Wednesday, 23 November 2022, 9:45AM
Kai Kara-France is ready to feel the butterflies again.
For the past two years, the Kiwi UFC flyweight has travelled across the globe as he clawed his way to the top echelon of the division. Now, after five fights on the road, the 29-year-old will get to experience a home crowd once more.
The Herald can confirm Kara-France will square off against Alex Perez at UFC 284 in Perth on February 12, adding another high-level bout to what is quickly becoming a loaded card.
“It’s nice to have something booked closer to home,” Kara-France said. “I’ve been really missing fighting in front of friends and family. I know Australia isn’t New Zealand, but a lot of friends and family will fly over for this one.
“I miss that walkout; I miss the butterflies you get when you get to show everyone what we’ve been doing.”
Kara-France is one of three fighters affiliated with Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym confirmed for the card, alongside light heavyweight Tyson Pedro and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, who is looking to add to his collection when he challenges for the lightweight title in the main event.
For Kara-France, it will be a return to how his career in the UFC began. Of his first five bouts with the promotion, three were held Down Under — the last of which being at UFC Auckland in February of 2020.
Since that time, the New Zealand and Australian presence in the promotion has grown even stronger, and he said it was a special thing to be a part of the rise of mixed martial arts Down Under in recent years.
“Spots are filling up fast, and it’s awesome that this whole card is stacked with New Zealand and Australia UFC fighters,” he said of UFC 284.
“I know a few years ago this would’ve been hard to put a card together that is purely fighters from this region, and now we’re putting together a stacked pay-per-view card that is all Anzacs vs the world. It’s pretty cool, and I’m pretty honoured to be a part of this movement and a part of this wave.”
The bout against Perez (24-7), which was previously booked for mid-June 2020 but was cancelled by Covid-19 and not immediately rebooked, will see Kara-France (24-10) return to action after falling short in his bid to claim UFC gold last time out.
It had been a strong performance from the Kiwi athlete in his interim title fight against Brandon Moreno, however, one well-placed kick from Moreno saw things go south very quickly late in the third round.
Reflecting on that fight, Kara-France said he could take plenty from the experience, but it was hard not to be a bit frustrated with how it played out.
“If I had been stopped in the first, I’d be able to be more content with it. But for my fight, it’s tough because I was winning the fight. In the first and second I was gaining momentum, then the third round was my best round, but I got unlucky and caught with a kick that landed right on the target, right on the liver, and shut me down.
“It’s experience. That’s what I’ve taken away from it. My first title fight, my first UFC co-main event and first five-rounder. I can take that as a positive. I am ready for these world titles, I am right there with the best guys in the world, and I can beat them.”
Fellow former title challenger Perez, currently ranked No 5 in the division, is the first step in Kara-France putting himself in the title picture, and a booking that will excite the fans as both fighters like to press the action.
“I know this is a great match-up for me. He’s a guy who will come to fight and I like those styles of fights. The main thing about this division is you just have to keep winning. Before you know it, you’ll be back in title contention. Even though I’ve just come off an interim world title fight, I’m only one fight away from putting myself in that same position.”
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission
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