Blood Diamond, Kai Kara-France, City Kickboxing, New Zealand, champion

City Kickboxing is a small gym in New Zealand that has helped unearth some of the best fighters in the UFC, and they could have their third world champion this weekend.

Title holders Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski both train at the Auckland-based facility and are widely considered to be two of the best fighters in the sport today.

Ranked fighters Dan Hooker and Brad Riddell are two of the other experienced UFC warriors currently training at Mount Eden.

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Kai Kara-France would become City Kickboxing’s final titleholder if he wins the interim flyweight championship belt at UFC 277 this weekend.

The New Zealander is No. 2 in the flyweight division rankings but can etch his name in the history books with a victory over Brandon Moreno in Dallas tomorrow (AEST).

Even though he is considered the underdog before the fight, Kara-France feels extremely confident after training in “the best gym in the world”.

“The proof is in the success of the gym. Look who I train with: two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I come from the best gym in the world,” Kara-France told Fox Sports.

“The atmosphere created by Eugene, people can try to emulate the training that we do and the structure that we have.

Kai Kara-France celebrates after winning a fight at UFC 234 in Melbourne in 2019. (AAP Image/Daniel Pockett)Source: AAP

“It’s just the right attitude as well as bringing the best version of yourself. Coaches have a limited time and if they put effort on you, you have to make sure you give effort back.

“You have to be thorough. If you’re not thorough, you’re going to be left behind. You won’t get the work you need and you won’t get the attention you need.

“It’s a great place and the team manages itself.”

Boasting an inspiring culture of encouragement and dedication, the gymnasium has become a second home for amateurs and professionals looking to dedicate themselves to combat.

Mike Mathetha, also known as Blood Diamond, used to walk past the gymnasium as a college student dreaming of getting involved.

The Zimbabwe-born fighter was picked as a teenager from Blenim, which is in New Zealand’s South Island but had his brother to back him up.

Blood Diamond moved north to study architecture, and after being harassed by “drunk fools” in the city, he wanted to learn how to defend himself.

But with no money to spend on a membership, he finally got his chance after striking a deal with gym founder Eugene Bareman.

“Things were difficult. Student life is always difficult. I think at that point I was only living on $20 a week,” Blood Diamond told Fox Sports ahead of UFC 277.

“That’s what kept me from participating, but one day I was like, ‘Oh shit, just try and go to a class.’

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“Eugene said ‘you have at least a free trial week. So I started going as hard as I can. I think that week I basically spent all my time in the gym, even when there were no classes.

“I’m going to get through this, I’m going to do two training sessions just to prove that I was fit. In my head, I was preparing for two training sessions.

“After we did the first training session, he just talks about (Israel Adesanya) because he was standing next to him.

“I was like ‘I’ve heard this story so many times, get ready for the second sparring (session)’.

“Then he was like ‘Bloods come get your contract’. I was like ‘what, what, are we still practicing? What’s going on?’

“My mind was still stuck on preparing for the next training session. It didn’t hit until later that night.

“It wasn’t like this until all these messages came through…I’m really into the UFC.”

After a decorated kickboxing career that would have included just one loss in over 100 fights, Blood Diamond turned his focus to the UFC.

Training alongside Adesanya, he finally got his chance in a surprise revelation from Bareman.

The Founder stood before all of his fighters with Adesanya by his side. He apparently started talking about the world champion, before asking Blood to come and collect his contract.

But Blood Diamond had just finished one training session and was preparing for another, so it’s no surprise that he was well and truly shocked by the revelation and the support from his teammates.

“Like a few days before, because I was on vacation, I went to visit my family in Perth, and I came back and Eugene texted me just to annoy me saying ‘I bet you’re fat and unfit”.

“I was like ‘wait, I’m pretty fit, let me prove to you that I’m fit’. Because I’m still working out at the gym, so I felt like he was trying to get me. ‘insult.

“I’m going to get through this, I’m going to do two training sessions just to prove that I was fit. In my head, I was preparing for two training sessions.

“After we did the first training session, he just talks about (Israel Adesanya) because he was standing next to him.

“I was like ‘I’ve heard this story so many times, get ready for the second sparring (session)’.

“Then he was like ‘Bloods come get your contract’. I was like ‘what, what, are we still practicing? What’s going on?’

“My mind was still stuck on preparing for the next training session. It didn’t hit until later that night.

“I didn’t feel like it until all these messages got through…I’m really into the UFC.”

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