It’s not often that you can say at the age of 20 that you know what you are going to do with your life. There are so many different things that can influence your path. It takes a highly motivated and dedicated individual to know at such an early stage of adulthood what you want to dedicate your life to. Kaiwhare “Kai” Kara-France is one of those people.
It all started with jiu-jitsu at the age of 15. From there, his love of martial arts progressed to training in MMA and then going forth to make his MMA debut at the tender age of 17. Kara-France has worked hard since then, taking fights on short notice and going wherever he needs to go in order to become a better fighter.
Kara-France was selected as one of the five fighters to be included in the 2013 Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Scholarship program. Following his fight under the Legend FC banner on April 27, he plans to spend the following six months honing his skills with some of the best coaches in the Oceania region and will call Phuket home.
“It’s great to be a part of the program,” he revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It’s a great learning facility for young fighters like me. They pay for your food, your accommodation and you get to focus on your training. It’s an experience I am really looking forward to. So many elite fighters stop by the gym for parts of their camps, so it’s going to be good to train with some of the best coaches and fighters.”
It can’t be easy to pack up everything and call a new country home, especially at the age when friends would be traveling the world for pleasure, not work. Kara-France, however, is adamant that the hard work will pay off.
“I know that this is what I want to do with my life,” he said.
In his time with Legend FC, Kara-France has notched up one win and one loss. In his eyes, the third-round TKO that he suffered against Agustin Delarmino at Legend FC 8 was not truly a loss and certainly wasn’t an accurate representation of his skills inside the ring.
“I took that fight on a day’s notice. I got the call on the day of my birthday, so I went from cutting my cake to straight away making weight,” he laughed. “I did pretty well to hang with him for three rounds with no preparation, but I just got caught in the third round. [Delarmino] is fighting for the title now, so I really want to get another fight with him with a full camp.”
Kara-France returns to the Legend FC ring after derailing the three-fight winning streak of Sam Chan with a first-round submission victory at Legend FC 10 back in August 2012. His opponent for his next bout is Mongolian fighter Danaa Batgerel, who comes into the fight with a two-fight winning streak of his own. That’s two opponents in a row that have gone into a fight with Kara-France with some great momentum.
“I will break his streak too,” Kara-France said. “I have seen a few of his fights, so I know it is going to be tough. He trains with Jadamba [Narantungalag, Legend FC Lightweight champion] so I know that he is very well trained. I am going into it expecting a 15-minute war, and I am looking forward to it.”
The preparation before a fight is always the key to putting on a good performance. Having some great training partners at home in Auckland that also make the trip overseas to fight for Legend FC has been beneficial for Kara-France’s transition from fighting on local shows to fighting on foreign soil.
“I look at a fight as if it’s a hard sparring session. At Strike Force we spar really hard, and to be honest, the fight is like a reward. Sometimes the fight itself is the easy part!” he exclaimed. “After the hard sparring, it’s easy to go into the fight relaxed and ready to fight.”
Kara-France is one of five New Zealand fighters that are scheduled to fight on the Legend FC card. It’s a testament to the talent of the region, but with the amount of professionally sanctioned shows dwindling in the country, it also shows that in order to progress as a top fighter in the country you have to fight on foreign soil. Legend FC offers a platform for fighters in the Oceania region to experience what a tightly run show is all about.
“Legend is such a great place to fight the best talent in the region. It’s got that big show format to it, so it’s a good platform for up-and-coming fighters,” Kara-France explained.
With such a young age will often come the allegation of immaturity, but for Kara-France it brings the willingness to learn and develop and do whatever it takes to excel as a mixed martial artist. With so many years left until he reaches his prime in the sport, this will only be the beginning of Kai’s goal to take a passion and turn it into a career.