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'Hostile territory:' Kara-France puts NZ on his back

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The bad blood behind UFC Auckland headline fight (0:56)

Rivals Dan Hooker and Paul Felder speak about a recent online argument ahead of their UFC Auckland showdown. (0:56)

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Kai Kara-France has promised to bounce back from a last-start loss and deliver his best performance yet when he steps into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night Auckland.

Kara-France is one third of the City Kickboxing assault on this weekend's card, the flyweight joining teammates Brad Riddell and headliner Dan Hooker in what will be the Auckland gym's first hometown event since Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski claimed world titles in 2019.

It also comes just a week after Adesanya won the Halberg Award as New Zealand's sportsperson of the year, an achievement the middleweight world champion attributed to New Zealand's combat sport athletes of the past.

Kara-France, 28, is very much the now. But having lost to Brandon Moreno by unanimous decision in Las Vegas midway through December, the flyweight recognises the importance of condemning that result to the past by taking down Tyson Nam in Auckland.

"Coming off a loss -- my first loss in three years, I was coming off an eight-fight win streak -- I know what it takes to get back in that win column," Kara-France told ESPN. "The best thing for me, after that loss, was just to get straight back in there; a 10-week turnaround, I haven't really taken any time off at all and we've just built off what we've already had at that last camp.

"We fixed the holes, we've addressed that and I've been working extensively with [coach] Eugene Bareman and I'm feeling confident coming into this fight. Being in my hometown, that just kind of lit a fire underneath me ... come fight night, he's gonna feel my presence, he's gonna realise he's in hostile territory. I'm here for business and I'm taking it very seriously."

While Nam, 36, is a veteran of 18 professional fights, he will be making just his second appearance in the UFC after a debut loss to Sergio Pettis in September last year.

Kara-France is ready to combat Nam's striking game head on, but the New Zealander is adamant he has the vastly superior skill-set and he is prepared to take the fight down whatever path he feels is suited.

"Tyson Nam is 10 years older than me, so he's got a lot of experience," Kara-France said. "Similar records, but for me I just feel like I'm going to be one step ahead this whole night. He says he's got a big right hand, so do I. So I'll happily welcome him to centre stage and see who's got the stronger striking game but don't be surprised if I mix it up as well.

"This is mixed martial arts, you've got to be diverse and you've got to have more in the toolbox than just your stand-up. So City Kickboxing and Eugene have prepared me well for this fight and how can you not get better when you've got two world champions at your gym. It's contagious, the energy that we have here, and [me], Dan and Brad are all going to be pulling through and we're just itching to get in there and put on a show."

Kara-France will have the chance to set the tone for his City Kickboxing teammates when he steps into the Octagon for the fourth fight of the card. Putting a victory on the board will have the local crowd in a frenzy, but so too might Kara-France's walkout beforehand.

"I've got something special on Fight Night for the walkout and I feel like that's going to get the crowd up and they're going to stay up when I get the highlight-reel knockout," he told ESPN. "But it's going to be a special night, it's been a special week already and the weigh-ins haven't even started yet.

"I'm just privileged to be here and honoured to represent New Zealand on the world stage, and I just can't wait to get in there."

Returning to the win column on Sunday is Kara-France's immediate goal and with his career back on track another assault on the flyweight top five will be in the offing.

"I think every fight in the UFC is pivotal; you're only as good as your last fight, so you've got to always make sure you're improving, you're progressing and what makes us do that is staying in the gym all year round," he said.

"We don't really take time off, we don't take breaks and we've got a short window where we can do this so you've got to put everything into it and that's what we've been doing. We're just constantly getting better and helping each other to progress, so I'm going to get the best person the UFC and the world has seen yet and what better way to do it than in my hometown."