The UFC’s return downunder has been dealt a blow less than three weeks out from the event, with Kiwi flyweight Kai Kara-France forced to withdraw from his bout at UFC 293 in Sydney.
Kara-France, the promotion’s No 5-ranked flyweight, sustained a concussion during a training session at the weekend and after discussing his options with his family and team, made the tough call to pull out of his fight against No. 10-ranked Manel Kape.
The bout was scheduled to take place as part of the pay-per-view section of the card and was one fans of the sport were excited about given the high-action styles of the two fighters.
“After speaking to my coaches, my team and my family, they all think it’s the right decision to put my health first,” Kara-France said in an Instagram post.
“Sorry to all the friends and family who have bought tickets, flights, and accommodation, all the fans who were excited to see me fight live. I’m gutted that I won’t be a part of this card.
“It’s been a tough week with my second son being born, as well as me pulling out of this fight. Mixed emotions, (I’m) frustrated, but I’ve just got to focus on the positives and just spend time with my loved ones. I appreciate the love and support, and we’ll be back soon.”
It’s the second fight to be scratched from an already thin card, after Australian Casey O’Neill was forced to pull out of her bout against Vivane Araujo due to an injury. It is, at this stage, unclear if Kape will remain on the card, with just nine bouts now confirmed for the card.
For a pay-per-view event, the UFC usually looks to book 12 bouts, though time is not on the promotion’s side ahead of the September 10 event.
Withdrawing from the bout sees Kara-France continue through a frustrating period. In February he was booked to fight Alex Perez at UFC 284 in Perth, but was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. He made his return to the octagon in June and was on the wrong side of a controversial decision against Amir Albazi.
After Kara-France announced he would not be able to fight, Kape vented his frustrations in an expletive-laden post on social media site X (formerly known as Twitter). The Angolan has now had opponents pull out of four of his last five scheduled bouts.
There will still be plenty of Kiwi representation on the card despite Kara-France’s withdrawal. UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will headline the card against Sean Strickland, while Adesanya and Kara-France’s teammates from Auckland’s City Kickboxing Gym Carlos Ulberg, Tyson Pedro, Shane Young and Blood Diamond are all confirmed to compete. Kiwi heavyweight Justin Tafa, who is based and trains in Australia, is also on the card.
Confirmed card for UFC 293 in Sydney
Middleweight title fight: Israel Adesanya (NZ) v Sean Strickland
Light heavyweight: Carlos Ulberg (NZ) v Da Woon Jung
Featherweight: Shane Young (NZ) v Gabriel Miranda
Welterweight: Blood Diamond (NZ) v Charles Radtke
Heavyweight: Justin Tafa (NZ) v Austen Lane
Light heavyweight: Tyson Pedro (Aus) v Anton Turkalj
Heavyweight: Tai Tuivasa (Aus) v Alexander Volkov
Featherweight: Jack Jenkins (Aus) v Chepe Mariscal
Lightweight: Jamie Mullarkey (Aus) v John Makdessi