UFC 259: Kiwi Carlos Ulberg feeling no pressure before much-hyped Octagon debut

Carlos Ulberg is just days away from his official UFC debut, but you wouldn't know it.

The charismatic City Kickboxing light-heavyweight opened the eyes of UFC president Dana White with a violent knockout win over Brazilian Bruno Oliveira in Las Vegas last November.

That win earned 'Mr Marvelous' a multi-fight UFC contract - a remarkable achievement for the 30-year-old, who has just five professional mixed martial arts bouts to his name. 

Ulberg is an accomplished kickboxer, after winning the King in the Ring tournament twice, and is a long-time training partner of UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

But the former underwear model, who was once shortlisted for The Bachelor, is now one of the hottest MMA prospects and his debut at UFC 259 comes with much hype.

But speaking to Newshub, a relaxed Ulberg says he feels "no pressure" and is just excited to step inside the cage, after a stellar eight-week training camp.

"I know how this ends and I know I come out of this fight with a smile on my face," Ulberg says.

"All this training has been an eye-opener. At this high level, it prepares you for battle, and I am on weight now and ready to go.

"[This camp] has been amazing to experience and I can't wait for next weekend."

White can see the dollar signs in Ulberg, commenting after his performance in November that he had never seen anyone as good-looking as Ulberg punch so hard.

And while coach Eugene Bareman believes his latest prospect is extremely marketable, he also has the talent to back the hype up inside the Octagon.

Bareman says the UFC sees a lot of potential in Ulberg and his career rise could mirror that of Adesanya's, if he delivers the goods.

"The UFC has people they consider contenders and a bunch of guys they consider cannon-fodder," Bareman explains.

"The cannon-fodder guys are there for the contenders to fight. They see potential in Carlos and want to build him up.

"I got an email regarding Carlos' fight, with five or six opponents listed. To me, that is a great sign, as they wanted me to pick the most appropriate opponent for Carlos.

"They gave me a choice, which says to me they see the potential in Carlos and they want to help him along his way. 

"We see Carlos as a future star. He has had a fantastic camp and if he gets a statement win, he could be on the same trajectory as Israel.

"That's the kind of potential I think Carlos has."

Ulberg after his win on Dana White's Contender Series
Ulberg after his win on Dana White's Contender Series Photo credit: Image - Getty
Ulberg at NZ Fashion Week in 2018
Ulberg at NZ Fashion Week in 2018 Photo credit: Getty

But for Ulberg, all the talk surrounding his potential is just that - talk. He understands he must win and win well to advance from prospect to genuine light-heavyweight contender.

And for Ulberg, the easiest way to do that is to have fun and embrace the challenge of stopping Kennedy Nzechukwu (7-1) in Las Vegas.

"I've seen enough of him to see his tendencies and what I perceive as his downfall," Ulberg says. "My coaches are doing all the background work, and I trust them and I will listen to them.

"I expect everything and anything from him. This is a fight and he is highly skilled.

"I'm prepared to wrestle if I have to, but the fight starts standing. I can't go in expecting a knockout.

"I'll go in to have fun, tap him and see what he bites at. I'll be like a kid in the playground, having a bit of fun."

And for Ulberg's opponent, that playground could well be a very dangerous place.

Join us on March 7 for live updates of UFC 259, including Adesanya v Blachowicz