A lot can happen in the space of a year.
For Kiwi UFC star Kai Kara-France, he's gone from having a cloud hanging over his future to being on the verge of becoming the face of the company's flyweight division.
Kara-France came into the UFC with the future of the division in doubt, but put his head down and went to work. Now, ranked inside the top 10 of the division after winning his first three bouts in the UFC – and his last eight overall – and with the future of the division confirmed, he's been rewarded with a fresh four-fight contract, and a fight against the No5 ranked fighter, Sergio Pettis.
While some fighters have to wait until they have fought out one contract before signing the next, Kara-France has secured his immediate future with one fight remaining on his first contract with the company. He'll also be watching City Kickboxing teammates Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker and Brad Riddell at UFC 243 in Melbourne next weekend as one of the UFC's guest fighters attending the event.
It's a sign of the value the company sees in the 26-year-old, who has hit the ground running since his debut fight last December and comes into the bout against Pettis on the back of a dominant performance in China in August.
"After my last fight, I think that was one of my best performances of my career, and having Dana White being there, coming up to me after my fight congratulating me and giving me his number personally says a lot," Kara-France told the Herald.
"I'm not just a teammate of Israel and Dan, and just a number of City Kickboxing in the UFC. I'm starting to be my own individual.
"I knew this is where I always belonged and now to be here, to be in the top 10 of the flyweight division, it's all right in front of me. I just need to make sure I'm doing to right things, keeping my head down, not looking too much at my work and admiring it and just kind of bouncing off my teammates."
The match up with Pettis (18-5) is an exciting one for Kara-France (20-7), with the American having been in the UFC since 2013 and counting wins over a number of highly ranked opponents including Joseph Benavidez (1) and Brandon Moreno (7).
Pettis comes from a striking background, which Kara-France believes is a favourable match up.
"We've got the same look at our gym – that taekwondo kickboxing style. I train with so many high level strikers that we can emulate that style.
"I'm happy to stand and bang with him in the middle and see who catches the other first."
For the rising Kiwi star, making the walk into the octagon at UFC 245 will be a dream come true. He's yet to fight in the United States, but will make his US debut in the fight capital of the world.
The card already includes three title fights, one of which will include City Kickboxing teammate Alexander Volkanovski, who meets Max Holloway with the featherweight title on the line.
And, given the directions their careers have taken them in, it's only fitting that Kara-France has found his way onto the card which the Australian Volkanovski will fight for the title on.
"We've come up in the same circuits together in Asia on Pacific Xtreme Combat – I was there when he won his title there. I was on the same card when he won the Australian Fighting Championship title and I'll be there in Las Vegas when he wins the UFC featherweight title."