Almost four years ago, Kevin Jousset sat in the crowd at UFC Auckland and watched Chinese welterweight Song Kenan send his opponent to the shadow realm.
The event, in late February 2020, had come not long after Jousset had relocated to the city to join the team at City Kickboxing and train towards the goal of one day fighting under the UFC banner himself.
On Sunday, in his second bout as a UFC fighter, Jousset will be the one to stand across the octagon from Kenan.
“I actually forgot he fought on that card until a few weeks ago when some mates reminded me,” Jousset admitted.
“But I was there, he had a big win – but I’m not the opponent he fought back then and he’s also a different fighter.”
In Kenan, the 30-year-old, who hails from Bordeaux in France, faces a steep rise in competition for his second fight with the promotion.
After impressing with a first-round submission against fellow UFC debutant Kiefer Crosbie at UFC 293 in Sydney in September, he meets Kenan (20-7) who has had eight bouts with the world’s top MMA promotion and holds a 5-3 record under the UFC banner. Three of his five wins have been by knockout, while across his 20 professional wins, he has a total of nine knockouts, eight submissions and just three decisions.
“He’s a very dangerous striker, but he’s also got some good submissions so he’s good everywhere. It’s not the kind of opponent I can think I’m going to get through too easily,” Jousset said of Kenan.
“I like the challenge. I’m happy to fight someone who, on paper, looks so good.”
“I need to respect my game plan and be smart in the way I fight him. I know I can beat him, I’m convinced of that, but I also know he’s dangerous, he’s very good at what he does, and I can’t rush to get the finish. I need to be very smart in the way I approach this fight.”
He was initially set to take to the octagon against Kenan’s home crowd, with the event scheduled to take place in Shanghai, China. However, the UFC confirmed it would be moved to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas in late November.
So instead of getting to perform in front of thousands of fans at Shanghai Indoor Arena, Jousset will have to work in front of tens of fans at the Apex – the UFC’s in-house octagon that became the promotion’s home during the Covid-19 pandemic and has continued to be a frequent host of fight nights since.
“I was looking forward to fighting in front of the crowd on his home soil. But at the end of the day it is what it is,” Jousset said.
“It’s a bit annoying because it’s the UFC Apex so there won’t be many people there to watch, but I’m sure there will be many people watching on TV and if there’s many people in the arena or not, the goal is still the same.”
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.