In just his second UFC fight, Brandon Royval has a big opportunity in a massive spot this Saturday night.
Royval will take on Kai Kara-France in the featured bout of UFC 253 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. The top-10 flyweight matchup will lead into the two title fights, headlined by a middleweight championship bout between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa.
When he learned about the matchup and the extra intangibles attached to it, Royval reacted quite fondly.
“Oh, man, that was like the coolest thing ever,” Royval told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “A lot of it was probably happenstance, but it feels like the UFC trusts me a little bit, too. I know that’s probably in my head more than anything but this is a great opportunity and I couldn’t be any happier.
“And Kai Kara-France, what gets you out of bed more than a big name like that, especially with it being my second fight in the UFC.”
The former LFA flyweight champion made his mark on the UFC’s 125-pound division with a second-round submission win over Tim Elliott in his octagon debut at May’s UFC on ESPN 9 event. Heading into the biggest fight of his career to date, Royval isn’t changing much, with the exception of adding a new cornerman—which he admits was a surprise before it happened.
“Alex Hernandez is going to be in my corner,” Royval explained. “He’s cool as sh*t. Just seeing him on TV, when I heard he was coming over, I was like, ‘I don’t know how this dude is gonna be,’ but he’s so cool.
“He came in about a week after my (Elliott) fight just checking out gyms. He would run his own camps, which is just crazy to me because he’s so good and he’s gone far in his career without having that. I just forget how blessed I am having a great coach, game plans and all of that stuff, and he’s been doing it by himself.
“It’s great to have him. It’s another brain I can pick because he’s a wizard.”
The Factory X flyweight standout wasn’t quite sure where his win over Elliott would put him in the grand scheme of one of the promotion’s most exciting, and underrated divisions. With his finger on the pulse of the sport, and riding a three-fight win and finish streak, Royval believed the stars could align to get the matchup with Kara-France, a guy he’s been watching and studying for quite some time
“This is one where I’m making $50 g’s, baby,” Royval said of Saturday’s matchup. “This is a great fight. It took a little while after my last fight to think about where I could go and I thought Kai Kara-France would be a good callout if I won the fight. I like his style, he’s super tough and I’m a fan of Kai Kara-France, honestly. Being able to fight him and have that knowledge after watching him so many times is great.”
Kara-France enters the bout victorious in nine of 10, and back to his winning ways. The City Kickboxing product bounced back from a unanimous decision loss to Brandon Moreno at UFC 245 with a victory over Tyson Nam at UFC Auckland in February.
Royval has a lot of respect for Kara-France and his style of fighting, although he does see a glaring hole in which he aims to exploit when the octagon door locks this weekend.
“My corners usually break down fighters for specific game plans, but this time they told me to have fun because I’m better than him everywhere and I believe that too,” Royval stated. “I think he’s a good, technical kickboxing striker and if it hits the mat I’ll definitely have the advantage. That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen his ground game. He has a 90-percent takedown defense in the UFC.
“For all I know, he’s like a black belt, it goes to the mat, he jumps guard and triangles me, or some crazy sh*t. But I assume I have a huge advantage on the ground. As far as the striking game goes, I just think I’m much more creative than him. He’s what you want to see in any kickboxer, but I fight with swagger, and a little off rhythm. If I’m teaching kickboxing, I’d want them to be like Kai Kara-France, but I think he needs a little more of that creativity and that’s where I strive.”
When it comes to making a prediction for the fight, Royval expects to get his hand raised in a fight where he plans to set the table—or steal the show—ahead of the light heavyweight title fight between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz, and the headliner for the undisputed 185-pound strap.
“I think I’m gonna be too much for him and that I’m gonna overwhelm him,” Royval said. “I think he’s gonna fall right into my game plan, right into my traps. If not, it’s gonna be a brawl. How I do it is just do me, have fun, find that flow state and just live it up in there. This is my dream and I’m gonna f*ckin enjoy it, and everything that’s gonna come my way.”