New Zealand will be well represented at UFC 259 in March, with Carlos Ulberg and Kai Kara-France joining Israel Adesanya on what is shaping up to be a candidate for biggest card of the year.
Adesanya, the UFC middleweight champion, will fight up a division for the promotion's light heavyweight belt in one of three title fights on the March 7 card, with Kara-France and Ulberg among those on hand to bring the action early.
Flyweight star Kara-France will take on Brazil's Rogério Bontorin in a clash of top 10 contenders, while light heavyweight Ulberg will make his debut against Kennedy Nzechukwu in his first taste of the biggest stage in the sport.
Kara-France comes into the event on the back of a second-round submission loss to American grappling whiz Brandon Royval in September last year; a bout in which both fighters had their opposition in trouble in a display that earned the pair a Fight of the Night bonus.
While the bout was one that impressed the fans, losing was a setback for Kara-France in his bid for a shot at the division's title. In Bontorin, Kara-France meets another submission artist – with 11 of the Brazilian's 15 wins coming via submission.
"We've done our homework," Kara-France said. "He's legit on the ground, and he likes to come forward. He's a pressure fighter and fights in a typical Brazilian style. I've fought a few Brazilians already, so I know he's going to be game and come to try take my head off, but we're going to be smart.
"Something I can take away from my last fight is just not to get caught up in the heat of the moment, pick him apart and eventually the finish will come. In this fight, I want to showcase holes I've fixed from the last fight and build off of that."
While Kara-France has his eyes on returning into the flyweight title picture, Ulberg faces a baptism by fire under the bright lights in UFC 259. Still green in his mixed martial arts career, Ulberg will be learning on the job to some extent as, although he is an excellent and decorated striker, he's far from the complete product on the ground.
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Although it is his UFC debut, Ulberg, who earned his contract with the UFC as part of Dana White's Contender Series late last year, has fought in front of massive crowds and in headline spots while kickboxing in China so is no stranger to the spotlight.
"To me, it is the biggest and most important fight in my MMA career; I'm going to look at it that way, and I guess every fight from now [will be]," Ulberg said.
"Three titles on the card...I'm excited for this whole event, it's going to be massive and I'm preparing myself pretty well for this one. I'm oozing with confidence."
No venue has been confirmed for the event yet, although Las Vegas has been the rumoured location. The UFC is expected to confirm the venue within the next week.