After his fight at UFC 234 in February, Kiwi flyweight Kai Kara-France was unsure where his future lay in the UFC.
The division appeared to be at a crossroads; the roster size was dwindling and the flyweight champion, Henry Cejudo, had his sights set on the bantamweight division (61.2kg).
After winning his first two bouts since signing with the UFC last year, Kara-France was preparing to follow Cejudo into the bantamweight realm. But while rehabilitating a wrist injury, he got the call; the flyweight division (56.6kg) was alive and well, and he would be fighting Mark de la Rosa in China on August 31.
"For a little while we weren't sure if I'd have to move up to bantamweight so I was hitting the weights hard and eating all my meals," Kara-France explained. "But as soon as I got the call I had to stop all of that straight away and start making that cut."
The 26-year-old is no stranger to the Chinese stage, having fought there plenty of times during his 27-fight professional career. He heads into the bout after a six-month lay off in which he focused on letting his wrist heal as best as it could.
The injury limited him in his February bout against Raulian Paiva after he aggravated it after a stroke inside the opening minutes of the fight and was forced to adjust. Known for his ability to knock opponents out, Kara-France was hoping to make a statement against de la Rosa after going the distance in his first two UFC bouts.
De la Rosa is 2-2 in the UFC and comes into the bout in China on the back of a loss. He's proven to be a dangerous opponent, particularly if the fight goes to the mat, with six of his 11 career wins coming by way of submission.
"I'm not going to rush anything," Kara-France said. "I'm just going to feel it out and see what Mark wants to do and go from there. I'm ready to go wherever this fight goes. My cardio's where it should be so once I see an opening I'm going to keep the pressure on until I break him.
"I know the style of fights the Chinese people like. It's that stand up, high intensity, action packed style and if you see my track record, that's my style.
"I feel like I'm going to bring the best Kai that the UFC have seen yet."
Tale of the tape
Record: 19-7 (1 no contest)
Mark de la Rosa