By Christopher Reive in Sydney
Kai Kara-France isn’t fighting at UFC 293 in Sydney on Sunday, but that didn’t spot him from causing ruckus at the event’s press conference.
Kara-France was scheduled to fight against Manel Kape in a clash of top flyweight contenders on the card, but was forced to withdraw about three weeks before the event due to concussion. It was the fourth time in five scheduled fights that Kape saw his opponent withdraw, though he will remain on the card and will take on UFC newcomer Felipe Dos Santos.
With six teammates still fighting on the card – including UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in the main event – Kara-France is in Sydney for the event, and sat a few rows back from the stage for Thursday’s press conference in an area reserved for fighters’ family and friends.
When asked about Kara-France, Kape quickly found his Kiwi adversary in the crowd and launched into a tirade. When Kara-France stood up, Kape grabbed a water bottle off the table to threw it at him; the Kiwi dodging it and responding with a middle finger salute.
His actions drew a reaction from Adesanya, who was sitting two seats down from Kape at the press conference. Adesanya stood up in an attempt to simmer things down, asking Kape to show some respect, to which Kape instead targeted his anger towards Adesanya – who fights at a weight class 27kg heavier than Kape’s.
The exchange ultimately came to an end with Kape asking Adesanya “who the f*** you are” (sic) and Adesanya warning Kape: “I will bury you.”
The NZ Herald Sport team, ever-dedicated to their craft, tallied an impressive 34 expletives uttered in the exchange between the three.
It was the fieriest moment in a press conference that many had been anticipating, with Adesanya’s opponent Sean Strickland never shy to flap his gums and share his thoughts. Among those he shared at Wednesday’s media session included that the world would fall apart without women, but also that women should stay home and raise families.
But while he babbled away to the Sydney fans – who responded with loud cheers – Adesanya barely engaged with him in a verbal joust; Strickland at one point saying: “C’mon Izzy, give me something bro. What the f***.”
“When you argue with a fool, those who are watching can’t tell who’s who,” Adesanya responded.
Adesanya summed up the general feeling around the bout later in the press conference.
“This is it, this is his moment. On Sunday afternoon, it’s my moment.”
Few are giving Strickland a chance of upsetting Adesanya when they meet in the cage, with his high-volume, high-pressure style not matching up well against someone who moves inside the cage as well as Adesanya.
But although Adesanya said several times that he is going to knock Strickland out, he has noted that everyone counting the American out only makes Strickland more dangerous, while Strickland is likely to have plenty of fan support in the crowd on Sunday if the press conference was anything to go by.
Adesanya and Strickland will close out the show on a card in which 10 of the 12 bouts feature fighters from Australia or New Zealand – with six of those bouts featuring a fighter training at Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym.
The gym’s coaches are in for a long day, with Kevin Jousset, Shane Young and Blood Diamond featuring in the first three fights of the event – the first of which is scheduled for an 8.30am (local time) start – with Carlos Ulberg, Tyson Pedro and finally Adesanya later on.