New Zealand’s No.6 UFC flyweight contender Kai Kara-France says desperation drove Cody Garbrandt to drop a division and that all the pressure will be on the former bantamweight champion when they do battle on Sunday (Australian time).
After winning the belt in late 2016, and extending his unbeaten start to his MMA career to 11 fights, Garbrandt proceeded to lose four of his next five matches.
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That worrying trend prompted Garbrandt to move to the flyweight division, where he will make his debut on the main card at UFC 269, and Kara-France is happy to be the one that welcomes him.
“I knew he wasn’t doing too well at bantamweight, so I guess when you get desperate and you want to reinvent yourself, there’s only one way – either go up or go down,” Kara-France said.
“This will be my eighth time making flyweight, this is Cody’s first fight at flyweight.
“I’m going to make him feel this weight-cut. Even if it hasn’t affected him, I want to make him feel that, ‘I’m in a fight now, it’s not just going to be easy to drop down a division and start bullying the smaller guys’.”
After four wins from six fights since joining the UFC three years ago, Kara-France (22-9, 1NC) sees his match-up with Garbrandt as a stepping stone to his first shot at the title next year against champion Brandon Moreno.
“This is the fight I’ve been dreaming of,” the Kiwi said.
“A former champ, high-profile fighter, it’s just going to elevate me. This is a title fight eliminator in my eyes.
“I’ve got to prove my point and make a statement. It’s such a stacked card, UFC 269, the last pay-per-view for the year, I’ve got to stand out so I’ve got to go out and take it.
“(If I) take out a former champ, there’s no denying me – 2022, a rematch with Brandon Moreno? Sounds good to me.
“It was a close fight our first outing, I dropped him twice in the first round and he did well to adapt and he ended up edging me in that decision.”
Given Kara-France went the distance with Moreno at UFC 245 two years ago, the New Zealander was very happy to see Moreno win the belt against Deiveson Figueiredo in June.
Kara-France now believes he has a faster route to the top, and a rematch with Moreno, if he can defeat Grabrandt.
Kara-France is prepared for anything on Sunday against Garbrandt, and said one of the most intriguing aspects of the fight would be to see if the American still had his famed punching power.
“This can go a few ways – Cody can come in and reserve his gas tank, try to last out all three rounds, or he could be like, ‘I’ve got one good round in me’,” Kara-France said.
“(It could be) a three-round war or a first-round barnburner. I feel like I’ve ticked all the boxes this camp, I’ve taken everything to the next level and I’ve really changed my mindset to stop chasing the title and start believing I’m the champ now.
“You just don’t know what he’s going to do … I’ve really elevated my conditioning to that next level because I want to use it as weapon.
“I’m coming in with bad intentions.”
Kara-France also believed there was a sense of fate about his clash with Garbrandt.
“My first ever UFC event (attended) was his headline against Thomas Almeida … watching him making his reign, and look what he’s done,” Kara-France recalled.
“I was over here (Las Vegas) for the Ultimate Fighter tryouts for season 24 and that happened to be on the same weekend.
“But timing is everything. Full circle. Now we’re matched up now he’s dropping to flyweight and now it’s my time.”