UFC: Kai Kara-France on COVID-19 lockdown, UFC 248 and fight dream come true

UFC Flyweight Kai Kara-France
UFC Flyweight Kai Kara-France Photo credit: Image - Photosport

February 23 seems like a "lifetime ago" for Kiwi mixed martial artist Kai Kara-France.

That Sunday, a little over two months ago, proved to be the biggest moment of the No.7 ranked UFC flyweight's career.

The Aucklander topped American Tyson Nam via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night Auckland - Kara-France's first Octagon appearance in front of a home crowd. 

It was a near-flawless 15-minute performance from Kara-France, who was coming off the first loss of his UFC stint, against Brandon Moreno in December.

But the 27-year-old wanted to get back on the horse as soon as possible and when the opportunity was presented to fight in his home city, Kara-France accepted the bout with just 10 weeks' notice. 

The Kiwi avoided the power striking game of Nam, using his slick striking game to nullify the offence of his taller opponent. 

The City Kickboxing talent set the tone for the night, with his gym recording a perfect 3-0 in Auckland - teammates Dan Hooker and Brad Riddell also having their hands raised.

Speaking to Newshub, Kara-France noted how surreal a feeling that night was.

"To jump back in there so quickly off a loss was a big deal for me," Kara-France told the Fight Club Podcast.

"Tyson Nam is a super tough opponent and I'm happy it all worked out, and the way I was able to mix up my attacks... I was pretty stoked with my performance.

"That whole week was amazing with all three of us winning, It was special having my two brothers there, all my teammates - there was just no way the three of us were going to lose that night. That crowd was insane - a packed arena at 10am. You just felt that Kiwi pride.

"It was awesome and humbling."

Just a week later Kara-France jetted off to Las Vegas to support his superstar teammate Israel Adesanya.

'The Last Stylebender' defended his UFC middleweight title in a bizarre fight against Cuban Yoel Romero. 

Kara-France revealed to Newshub the entire City Kickboxing team was assigned a floor of Venetian Resort, with more than 20 of the gym there to support Adesanya, in what proved to be the toughest fight of his UFC tenure.

The Nigerian-Kiwi scored a controversial decision win, but despite the manner of victory, Kara-France told Newshub it capped off an "amazing three weeks" that now seems like a distant memory, given the global shutdown thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"It feels like a lifetime ago," Kara-France said.

"A few days after we got back from Vegas, that's when New Zealand went into lockdown. I'm sure the world will get back to normal eventually, but to go from partying all night in Las Vegas to being home-based, has been a little weird I guess. 

"But that whole three weeks was a whirlwind of emotions.

"We had the whole 45th floor of the hotel at the Venetian. Izzy [Adesanya] got us that whole floor and every day he got a new Porsche to drive - it was crazy.

"We drove down the strip, just the two of us one night during the week,  with the top down and all these guys coming up and wishing Izzy luck - we looked at each other and thought how crazy it was that we were in that moment given where we have come from.

"Israel has the keys to the city that week - it was awesome."

Now four weeks into lockdown, Kara-France admitted he is craving a little bit of normality. 

Despite having created his own training regime from home, the former Mount Albert Grammar football standout said he hopes COVID-19 alert level 3 allows a little more flexibility around training with his teammates,

That remains to be seen, but Kara-France did reveal the last month has confirmed his reasons why he puts his body through hell three or four times a year. 

"Fighting is my identity. It's what I am known for, it's what I do for any job. 

"So when that is taken away from you, you realise everything is temporary and it kind of puts things into perspective about what is important in life. 

It's been the perfect time for self-reflection and to see where I am at. For me, it hasn't been too difficult. Fighting isn't everything you know? I have a short window with my career and everything I am doing now is setting me up for my future plans, where I will look to venture into different avenues, once my career winds down - I'll still be in the sport - but in different aspects of the business.

"In the big scheme of things, a month or two away from everyone really isn't that long."