Don't Blink - and definitely don't laugh

By Te Ao Toa

When Kai 'Don't Blink' Kara-France floored American Cody Garbrandt not once but three times inside the first round in a spectacular TKO win at UFC 269 in Las Vegas recently, he says he wanted his opponent to "feel his presence" as a Māori.

"At the weigh-in, I wanted to give him a taste of what's to come," Kara-France told Te Ao Toa. "I wanted him to feel my presence."

Former bantamweight champion, Garbrandt, moved down a weight class expecting flyweight Kara-France to be an 'easy beat' on his way to a title shot. But Kara-France, who says he is proudly Māori, had other ideas.

He started by making sure Garbrandt knew exactly who he was at the weigh-in.

"It was a spur of the moment thing. Like, I wasn't thinking about it too much, I'll do a pūkana.  I was just thinking I'm going to make him feel my wairua, my mana," Kara-France says. 

"He brushed it off, laughed at me. Laughed because he doesn't know - and that might be out of fear, might be out of insecurity," says Kara-France, who now boasts a record of 23 wins and 9 losses.

"Come fight night, I just felt so relaxed."

When Kara-France heard his walkout song - a Māori anthem - there was no holding him back.

"When I heard Poi E playing, it brought me back home, just connected me to everyone back home supporting me, harnessing that energy," he says.