Mixed Martial Arts: French connection - City Kickboxing import Kevin Jousset signs on with UFC

Kevin Jousset.
Kevin Jousset. Photo credit: Instagram/@joussetkevin

Renowned Auckland gym City Kickboxing has graduated its latest fighter to the UFC ranks in the form of French welterweight Kevin Jousset.

Jousset is the eighth athlete off the fighter factory's conveyor belt to earn a roster spot with the world's premier MMA promotion, following in the footsteps of teammates Kai Kara-France, Carlos Ulberg, Dan Hooker, Shane Young, Blood Diamond, Brad Riddell and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. 

He's also the first fulltime City Kickboxing fighter from abroad to make the leap.

Coach Eugene Bareman had the honour of delivering the good news to Jousett during training on Thursday morning, calling the gym to the mat and making the announcement to a rapturous reaction.

"He just told me 'welcome to the UFC'," Jousset told Newshub. 

"It was pretty exciting and pretty surprising in a sense but it's something I've been working towards for such a long time.

"I'm happy it's finally done."

Newshub understands Jousset is poised to make his promotional debut at next month's UFC 293 in Sydney, where a handful of his CKB colleagues will also feature in the organisation's long-awaited return 'down under' in an event headlined by Adesanya's title defence against Sean Strickland.

Kevin Jousset.
Kevin Jousset. Photo credit: Instagram/@joussetkevin

Since relocating to New Zealand to pursue his UFC dream four years ago, Jousset has been a force on the Australasian scene. 

A former French national judo champion, his professional MMA record stands at 8-2, which includes four knockouts. 

In his most recent outing in May, he finished Australian Kitt Campbell with a barrage of lethal ground and pound to add the Hex middleweight title to the welterweight strap he already held, becoming the Australian promotion's first dual-division champion.

The UFC tilt is rich reward for an immense amount of sacrifice made by the lifelong judoka, who left his friends and family in France to travel solo to the other side of the world with the specific aim of training at what he describes as the "best gym in the world" - a bold move that has clearly paid dividends.

"Being surrounded by so many good people at the gym like my coaches and my training partners, I'm just really grateful.

"I'm in a very good place. I love the country I live in and I love the people here and now that I'm in the UFC I'll have a bit more money to be able to visit my family more often, so that's definitely something I'm looking forward to as well."

The 30-year-old admits sharing a mat on a twice daily basis with his UFC cohorts at City Kickboxing has seen his skillset skyrocket, allowing him to progress at a rapid rate.

Combine that with a work ethic his coaches describe as consistently among the best in the room at Eden Terrace and a call-up to the big leagues almost seemed inevitable.

"CKB has had a big impact on me, definitely. Training alongside some of the best guys in the world can only make you better.

"It's a big thing but I think my hard work is definitely the main thing. I think I would've made it without CKB but it would've taken more time, and I also believe I wouldn't have as much skills if I hadn't trained here as long as I have."

A judo black belt, the influence of the martial art he's spent his life studying is readily apparent, understandably forming the foundation of his MMA game.

Spectacular sweeps and foot trips lend themselves to his sturdy top control game and penchant for ground and pound - a familiar procedure that has led to the demise of a handful of his opponents to date.

"Obviously I use a lot of takedowns and I'm quite aggressive - I have kickboxing and striking skills as well and I love using my elbows.

"I usually make it quite an aggressive fight so I have no doubt that UFC fans will love watching my fights."

With MMA legalised in France only three years ago, the UFC views it as a key emerging market. Heavyweight Ciryl Gane's success has helped accelerate that agenda, with the promotion returning to Paris for just its second French event in just two weeks' time.

And while the tricolore will be prominent during each of Jousett's fights, he's determined to make it clear he'a also representing Aotearoa every time he enters the Octagon.

"We'll represent France and New Zealand at the same time, so I'm very proud of that, for sure."