Kiwi middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has prepped for his next title defence by standing up for City Kickboxing teammate Kai Kara-France at the official UFC 293 media conference at Sydney.
After regaining his crown from Brazilian Alex Pereira last November, the Nigerian-born fighter will face a challenge from American Sean Strickland on Sunday, regarded by many as his easiest opponent during his title tenure.
Adesanya, 34, had hoped to face South African Dricus du Plessis, who earned a shot at the belt with victory over former champion Robert Whittaker, but withdrew from the expected match-up with injury.
With a 14-5 UFC record, Strickland, 32, has done his best to bait his rival in the build-up to their fight, but at the official media conference, Adesanya has found a more worthy opponent in a fighter many kilograms lighter.
The UFC 293 card features other fighters from the CKB stable, but one missing is flyweight Kara-France, who was due to take on Angolan Manel Kape, but withdrew, after suffering concussion in training.
Currently ranked 10th in the division, Kape sees the fifth-ranked Kiwi as a steppingstone to bigger things, but has become frustrated with opponents dropping out of fights. This year, Alex Perez (seventh) and Deiveson Figueiredo (second) have also withdrawn from scheduled meetings.
His verbal attacks on Kara-France in the audience riled Adesanya more than anything Strickland had to offer from the stage.
"Unfortunately, Kai Kara-France is a b***h," declared Kape, with Adesanya sitting two seats away on the top table. "He's in front of me and you are f***ing guilty, because this kid's going to pay.
"You had three weeks to fight me... you have the courage to come here. Stand up, m****f***er."
Adesanya leapt to his feet to defend his mate's hounour. At 1.93m (6ft 4in), he towered above Kape's 1.73m (5ft 8in) and brought that to bear in the confrontation.
"Show some f***ing respect," he responded. "Look at this little midget trying to f*** with me.
"I would f***ing bury you."
Feeling neglected on the other end of the table, Strickland stepped in: "Calm down, that's not the fight... leave the little man alone."
Kape will face UFC newcomer Felipe dos Santos on Sunday, a bout that is unlikely to help his promotion up the flyweight rankings.
He has taken another crack at Kara-France, when asked who his next opponent might be.
"I just believe next fight, I'll fight for the title, but after that, I want that man Kai Kara-France," he continued. "I want this man.
"You run away from me. Your coach said that you guys should be in through the injuries.
"You guys have to have the mentality of the champion, so you have to [fight through] the injuries.
"What happened to you? That's the question."
Other City Kickboxing fighters in action are Caros Ulberg, Shane Young, Blood Diamond and French debutant Kevin Jousset.
Join Newshub at noon Sunday for live updates of UFC 293