Fighters are always talking about belief, even if they don’t have it.
- New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France will fight for the UFC’s interim flyweight title on Sunday against Mexico’s Brandon Moreno
- Kara-France rocketed into title contention after three-straight wins
- If successful, the 29-year old would be the third champion to come out out Auckland’s City Kickboxing
Belief in themselves, belief in their abilities, belief in their team, belief in their destiny to win this fight, then win that fight, then win a world title.
Sometimes it’s true. Most times it’s not.
Becoming a champion is only for the very best, and many fighters never make it to the promised land, no matter how much they think they might.
However, ahead of his maiden UFC title fight, New Zealand flyweight Kai Kara-France does not seem to be one of those guys who gets so close only to miss out.
Ahead of his interim flyweight championship bout with Mexico’s Brandon Moreno on Sunday at UFC 277, Kara-France’s confidence is not overblown, because he isn’t trying to convince anyone of anything.
There’s no bluster and no bulls***, no big predictions nor swaggering arrogance, just a quiet belief. He isn’t hoping he’ll win. He’s certain he will so long as he does what he knows he can do.
“I’m not here to prove anything to anyone. I’m here to prove something to myself,” Kara-France said.
“When I go out there, I have no fear, no anxiety, no overthinking. I’m totally present, and that’s when you’re free.
“When I’m in there, in Dallas, and I feel the crowd against me, I’ll be composed. I’ll be in the moment and use my stillness as a weapon.
“I want to spoil the party. I welcome that. I’m more than ready to do this.
“I’ll showcase everything I’ve been telling myself for the past few years.”
Those past few years have become good ones for Kara-France. He’s become a husband and a father, which he says gave him a new purpose.
He’s ripped off a three-fight winning streak, humbling a former champion via his knockout win over Cody Garbrandt and beating the undefeated Askar Askarov via a thrilling decision to pave the way for a shot at the title.
It’s a long way from where Kara-France used to be and, while he says he’s always believed he could be the best fighter in the world, it wasn’t something he always felt could be true.
It was only in the aftermath of his last loss — a submission defeat to Brandon Royval in September of 2020 — that Kara-France realised the greatness that lived inside him.
“I had a good camp. I had everything I needed, but I still didn’t believe what I was doing on the path I was on. I just had to trust the system, and trust myself,” Kara-France said.
“I worked with a mental coach, a sports psychologist and a breathing coach, and it changed my whole outlook on what I’m doing.
“It’s something you have to work on. It doesn’t happen overnight. Your mind is like a muscle. You have to train it, you have to train it to work under stressful conditions and situations.”
Kara-France knows Moreno won’t be an easy out. The former flyweight champion cannot be broken, having never been finished in his MMA career, and is as tough and willing as they come.
And, if the 29-year old Kiwi does triumph — and he brings another title back to Auckland’s famed City Kickboxing gym and shows all of New Zealand and all of the world the power of his belief — there will still be greater obstacles down the line.
A unification bout with undisputed champions Deiveson Figueirado, or a potential return from retirement for former champion Henry Cejudo would be high on the list.
But Kara-France fears nothing. For him to get where he is now, he had to conquer himself first and, after that, everybody else is easier work.
“We push ourselves past our boundaries, and you know you’re fit and you know you’re sharp and you know you’re where you need to be technically,” Kara-France said.
“But sometimes it isn’t about that. It’s about biting down on the mouthpiece and doing it. Sometimes that can cripple you. Sometimes you get caught. There’s a lot of risk. But when it works out, it’s a beautiful thing.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in there. It doesn’t matter if it’s Brandon Moreno, Deiveson Figueirado, Henry Cejudo, it’s a battle against yourself. That’s the test.”