The excitement is like nothing else.

Fans all around New Zealand are waking up each day and crossing one more day off their calendar. They’re counting the days until Saturday, when the UFC makes its first visit to the country. There is an aura surrounding the fight fans of the country. It’s reminiscent of an era when fight shows were few and far between for the fans in North America.

Te Huna (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

Te Huna (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

As the stars of the UFC begin to descend on New Zealand, the anticipation begins to build. James Te Huna has the task of being one half of the headlining tilt of the evening. As a young boy growing up in the small town of Te Kauwhata in the country’s North Island, this day was a mere dream. The UFC has finally made its way to New Zealand, and Te Huna is one of the reasons that fans will be packing the Vector Arena in Auckland to get their rare live glimpse of the world’s most elite mixed martial arts event.

At UFC Fight Night 43 on June 28, Te Huna meets former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt.

“There’s a lot of pressure for me,” Te Huna explained to The MMA Corner. “It’s the first time that the UFC has put on an event in New Zealand, so I feel that I’ve gotta go out and give the fans a show. Last year wasn’t a good year for me, and it ended with that bad knockout. And it was like my mind was in a different place, and now I’m ready to go in there and try different things and impress at middleweight.”

“This is a dream come true. Being able to represent the sport that I love in New Zealand, it’s great. Kiwis love their combat sport, so I know that I’m gonna have a lot of support in that crowd. This fight is a big deal for me, and I know that with all the support that I can’t not win in New Zealand. I have to go out there and I have to get the win.”

After dropping a vicious knockout loss to MMA legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Brisbane, Australia, at the end of last year, this marks the first time that Te Huna has seen action in 2014.

Te Huna (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

Te Huna (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

“Everyone’s been caught,” Te Huna admitted. “You know, some of the best guys in the sport—like Rashad Evans, Chuck Liddell—they’ve all been caught before. After the fight, I spent a week in Sydney, and I was so embarrassed about what had happened. I’ve been fighting for over 10 years and brought my career up to this point, and then a knockout squashes everything and I’ve gotta start again. There was still so much support for me, though. I was really surprised, and it inspired me to get back in there.

“Going over to New Zealand really pumped me up, too. A lot of people would see me in the street and recognize me, and all that support has really pumped me up. It really lifted my spirits up after my last two fights, and now, heading into the next one, I’ve pretty well forgotten about what had happened before and I’m ready for my new challenge.”

Te Huna knows exactly what this fight means for his career. Marquardt enters the fight on the back of three straight losses and looks to get a return to form through a move back to the middleweight division. A lot of people will be watching Te Huna’s maiden performance at 185 pounds.

“This is a fresh new start for me,” Te Huna said. “Middleweight is my natural weight. I was eating a lot to stay up at light heavyweight, and I was one of the lighter guys at light heavyweight, so it really made sense. When I did my trial cuts, it felt right. There is so much on the line for me fighting at home and taking on this new challenge. It’s the first time I am in the UFC main event, and if I don’t win this, I might not get that chance again. Nate is going into this knowing he needs to win, but I need it more. I’m not leaving Auckland without that win.”

As the hours count down towards the main event of UFC Fight Night 43, it all begins to become real for Te Huna. This is the fight of his career. This is the fight that is going to define his future. The pressure has mounted, and Te Huna is going to rise to the occasion.

James would like to thank PC Cranes , Corporate Electrical, Sky Arena, Boost Mobile, Pain Away and Competitive Edge. He would also like to thank the fans of New Zealand for their support in the UFC’s debut in the country. Follow Te Huna on Twitter: @JamesTeHuna

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.