Isaac Savage interviews Kai ‘Don’t Blink’ Kara France
I: You’re off to train in Thailand soon – Why Thailand and what are you hoping to achieve over there?
K: This will be a kind of training holiday. I’m going over to see my girlfriend for our one year
anniversary, so it’s good timing. I’m fighting in early June, so I’m about ten weeks out. This trip will be a kick start leading up to my next fight camp. My fight isn’t 100% confirmed yet, but I have something in the pipes.
I: What gym will you be training out of over there?
K: Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. I lived there for four years so it’s like my second home. I’ll be seeing all my old friends and coaches while I’m over there, I look forward to reconnecting with them all.
I: MMA is really building momentum in NZ, especially through CKB, where do you see NZ MMA in the next few years, growth-wise?
K: For a while now, CKB has been one of the stipends for not just NZ MMA but this part of the world, you know. We’ve got our captain Dan ‘the Hangman’ Hooker, and Israel ‘the Last Stylebender’ Adesanya and Shane ‘Young Method’ Young (inside joke) who are making waves. Three guys, and that’s only just the guys you know of. The thing is, the guys you don’t know of, they’re the ones that are ready to break through. It’s an unbeatable environment here, everyone is keen and everyone is hungry to get to where they want to be. It’s exciting to be part of a crew where some are already in UFC leading the pathway for the rest of us. Over here we don’t just win fights, but win with style, we want to show the world we are complete fighters… we’re not just stand-up fighters.
I: What we love about your style was captured on the Ultimate Fighter, where you absolutely flat-lined the American (Terrance Mitchell). I mean, what else do you think you have to do to get Dana White’s attention and get onto the UFC when you’ve already shown him a performance like that?
K: Flying to Las Vegas to compete in the Ultimate Fighter was probably the most pressure I’ve ever fought under. When you’re fighting there’s only about 30 people in the room, but the most important person is watching – Dana White, the president of the UFC. So to perform at my best and to get a highlight reel knock out finish right in front of him and to leave a statement you know, I wanted to represent NZ the best way I could and with a result like that, it meant a lot. Right now we’re on a 5 fight win streak with good finishes, which is quite hard to get away with these days.
We’re in a good position now to wait and see what will open up. We’re in talks for June, but nothing is confirmed for a UFC contract, but I’m definitely on their radar, I made the weight in the Ultimate Fighter, that’s always been the question I guess, cause I’ve taken fights at bantam weight, the weight above.
I: So you’re on the right track, but can’t spill too much right now, but you are in talks and there could be a potential of something happening this year?
K: Definitely. We’re like, the first call up now. So if there’s pull-outs, we’re the go-to guy. We are in that good position where we can sit and see what opens up.
I: Speaking of Dana White and getting his attention, what are your thoughts on Connor McGregor’s antics with the bus and all that drama?
K: That’s what happens when you have all the power, you can do what you want, you know? In his eyes he can get away with anything, so hopefully he gets punished for that. Hurting people and taking away food from their table (three guys got pulled from that fight card), it’s a selfish move for Connor. I think there will be a fight set up in September between him and Khabib in Russia, it just makes sense now. People will tune in who aren’t even fight fans because of all that bad publicity… I don’t think it was staged, but its gunna set them up for an even bigger pay-per view, maybe even bigger than the Mayweather v McGregor fight.
I: Speaking of fights, I think I’ve seen you fight on a boat once. What’s been one of your most memorable fights to date?
K: I’ve fought in 13 different countries now, I’ve had 30 professional fights so I’ve got a bit of
experience now. Fighting on a cruise ship was one of the most memorable moments, we jumped on the boat in Malaysia then overnight we came to Phuket and the cruise ship was docked at the port, so it wasn’t moving when we were fighting. All my team mates at Tiger got to come on the boat and watch us, it was a pretty cool fight but it only went for about 12 seconds. The week before that I fought in Taiwan and I got a 9 second KO on that show. It was a pretty quick turn-around, only 30 seconds all up in the cage within two weeks of fights, good times.
I: I mean a quick win is great, but is there kind of disappointment when you’ve just trained 6-8 weeks to beat the guy in a few seconds, do you ever wish it could’ve gone on longer so you could really test out your fitness/chin/technique?
K: Yeah, I guess so. But, the quicker the fight is, the faster the relief comes, the pressure leaves and you can just enjoy the moment, it just happened to be my night, those two nights.
I: You don’t really get paid for overtime in the fight game, so you’re probably quite happy with those quick wins, right?
K: Yeah, it was a good win streak, after those two fights, I finished my next three fights within the first minute as well, that’s when I got picked up for the Ultimate Fighter. Looking back, you could see the momentum building.
I: Speaking of momentum building, so is your fame, you’re on the third and final season of Game of Bros. Who was your favourite competitor or team mate on the Game of Bros and why?
K: Me and Jimi Jackson got on pretty well. He’s so funny and a genuine guy so naturally we clicked. Sometimes he’d struggle on the physical challenges so I’d step up and carry him on my shoulders – literally, but it was always a good time with him. Close behind him was Carlos, he’s such a physical athlete, there was some healthy gym rivalry.
I: How have you managed fighting, training and filming?
K: It’s been a juggle. The day before we started filming I had just flown in from China, so I was a bit banged up. In some of the challenges I was sore, but I knew I could push through that pain and put it all on the line for my charity Youthnet. It was a great experience, I loved working with all of the cast and it was really fun. The crew was so welcoming, that’s what I enjoyed the most, it felt like family. We didn’t know each other at first, but networking and hanging with people we wouldn’t normally bump into meant we became friends.
I: Why did you choose Youthnet as the charity you’d donate your winnings to?
K: Because they spread awareness around youth suicide. Suicide is common these days and is something that needs to be addressed, I’ve had maybe 3-4 incidents in my life where people I knew have taken their own lives due to depression. It’s a recurring illness in society that needs to be talked about.
I: I’m really glad as a young guy you’re supporting a cause like Youthnet, with your following you’ll bring more exposure to it. On a bit more of a lighter note, I saw you with Monty Betham the other day getting in some rounds – who got the better of each other?
K: Yeah, we had a few good rounds, light sparring but still at a quick pace. That day he was getting the better of me. Monty has always been really supportive of my career, he’s told me to go down to his gym if I ever need to switch up the scenery to do a few rounds. He’s still got it, he’s like 40 years old but you wouldn’t think it, he looks like he’s in his prime. He wants to do a few MMA sessions, so I might get him on the ground for some grappling sessions, you might see him at CKB full on sparring soon.
I: Speaking of boxing, what are your thoughts on Anthony Joshua’s recent performance and would you ever jump in the boxing ring?
K: I’ve actually had 6 pro boxing fights already, I was fighting in Thailand just in between my MMA fights to stay active, I was never trying to make it as a boxer, it was just extra ring time for me to practice what I’d been working on. I love the aspect of the fight game, it’s a science to me, it’s so technical. I admire Parker’s quick jab and ability to find openings against someone with the height and reach advantage like Joshua’s, I like seeing heavyweights go at it but for me, I like watching the smaller guys. You get to see not just power, but skill and speed, like you do with Lomachenko and those kind of fighters.
I: Whether it be fighting or just personally, who motivates you? Who inspires you and keeps you going through dark days?
K: In our gym motivate each other. Training with guys like Dan, Izzy, Carlos and Shane is motivation. You see how hard they’re working, you look over and you don’t want to be the weak link in the chain – you want to be motivating to them as well so yeah, we all push each other. Another source of motivation for me is our team member Jamie Van Der Kuijl who sadly passed away a few years ago.
We try to continue his legacy. Jamie and I always used to talk about how the UFC was a dream, so now, when I fight, in the back of my mind I’m wanting to make him proud. I know he’s right there beside me you know, when we all go out we always say a prayer and we know he’s looking down on us and that’s extra motivation right there. CKB, we’re on the rise, you can see with all the guns that have been fighting over the past few weekends, with recent impressive wins at UFC and in China, we are just taking over the game.
I: How awesome is it that you’re continuing on Jamie’s legacy and the journey you spoke about all those years ago with him, you reckon he’d be proud?
K: Definitely. Me and Jamie fought on the same card together in Perth and two weeks later he passed away, it really hit home. I think we had a few drinks after our fights, banter on the flight home, you’d just never expect that to happen, he was only 25... It was shocking to the whole fight community but at his funeral, it was beautiful cause you could see how the whole fight community banded together, we all were one and were there for our boy. Now I’m continuing that legacy, I’ll keep chasing the dream, yeah, I just wanna do him proud.
I: In saying that, we are looking forward to seeing you on Game of Bros, is there anything you want to say to your family and supporters?
K: I guess people are getting frustrated that I’m not in the UFC yet, it’s been over a year since Ultimate Fighter, it’s one of those things that you need to just look at as a blessing in disguise. You get to work on holes that you’ve had in your game, tweak weaknesses and level up on everything.
People see me as just a knock out artist but I’ve trained in wrestling and Jiu jitsu just as much as I do striking. Even in my last few previous fights you’ve been able to see that wrestling aspect of my game, I’m not just trying to knock these guys out, I’m showing my whole skill base. For my next fights coming up we’re gunna make a big impact, it’s inevitable now, its gunna happen this year so don’t be surprised when you see me on the future UFC cards.
Game of Bros premieres Thursday 03 May from 8-830pm