Headlining UFC NZ a 'dream come true' for James Te Huna
James Te Huna (16-7) was the first New Zealand-born fighter to compete in the Octagon, and now he's slated to be the first kiwi to headline an event in Auckland as well.
"It's a dream come true," Te Huna told MMA Kanvas in an exclusive interview last week.
"For me it's an honour to represent my country and headline the card. I dreamed about this when I was a kid, and for me to fulfill these dreams is the best."
In recent years, droves of Kiwi fans have crossed the ditch to see their countrymen compete on Australian cards and the UFC have cleverly teased a trip to "the land of the long white cloud" for years. When the rumours of an NZ fight card finally became a reality, Te Huna knew that he had to be a part of the Octagon's debut in his home nation.
"I first heard about this a few months ago when my manager asked if I wanted to fight on a New Zealand card, and I knew that had to be my next fight, it didn't matter against who. Now that it's happening it's just an amazing feeling. I can't really explain it." Te Huna said with a genuine tone of excitement.
The last time that we saw Te Huna in the Octagon he had the opportunity to slay a former UFC champion and bona fide MMA legend in Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, but it didn't pan out that way, with the Brazilian bomber knocking him unconscious in front of thousands of Aussie fans late last year.
"I had a great camp, and I was too keen for the fight and I ran straight at him with my hands down, a simple mistake, and no excuses, he put one of my chin (laughs). This is a fight, it could've been the other way, if he ran at me I could've hit him, but I made a mistake and I lost." the talented kiwi said.
The Sydney-based fighter has called the light heavyweight division home for his entire four year tenure with the UFC, but following the disappointing defeat to "Shogun", it forced him to consider a fresh start in a new weight class 20 pounds (9kg) south.
Te Huna will headline the UFC's debut trip to New Zealand this Saturday - Image Getty
The former CFC light heavyweight champ was never a hulking fighter at 205 pounds (93kg) but still needed to make some changes before he could comfortably move to middleweight and remain the same explosive fighter that he was. To do so he has teamed up with the dietitian from the Carlton Football Club.
"I made a test cut last January and made the decision to move to middleweight. I went down to the Carlton AFL Club in Melbourne to get a competitive edge. They gave me a body scan and worked with a guy named Johann. He's a big UFC fan, and worked with a lot of athletes on diets, so he changed my diet around that I've been using for the past two years, so I'm trying to maximise the amount of energy I can produce," he said.
"Going through the training sessions hasn't been a problem and the weight has been falling off. I was always trying to eat up to deal with these big boys, and I'd pump a lot of weights as well, so now I've cut that out, I'm on a strict diet now and making middleweight won't be a problem," he continued.
Speaking to MMA Kanvas in the past, Te Huna has discussed the mental battles he's faced thus far in his career, so heading into this fight against Nate Marquardt (32-12-2), the Pennrith based fighter is keeping a positive mindset.
"If you feel like your back (is) against the wall you're not putting yourself in a good position if you think like that. I've put (my losses) behind me, and I just want to give it my all, and I'm sure it's the same for Nate (Marquardt), he's had three losses, and three straight KOs, but he's not going to be thinking about that, he's gonna bring it on the night too and it will be a great fight for the fans," he said.
Te Huna will have an arena packed with fans cheering and hollering support for him on Saturday night (AEST) and he's determined to please them and leave with his hand raised, one way or another.
"All I've got on my mind is finishing Nate Marquardt and winning. Whether it's a submission, which is highly unlikely (laughs) or a head kick or whatever, I don't care, all I want is to get a win."
UFC New Zealand: Te Huna vs. Marquardt goes down this Saturday from 4:30PM (AEST) - MMA Kanvas will be on the scene reporting live, so keep it locked on MMA Kanvas for results, analysis, interviews and play-by-play coverage.
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