Interview: UFC’s Kai Kamaka in ‘better spot mentally’ ahead of fight with TJ Brown

The last time Kai Kamaka III stepped inside the Octagon, he was in the middle of moving his family to Las Vegas from Hawaii. Despite being a moderate favorite in that November bout against Jonathan Pearce, Kamaka lost by second-round ground and pound.

Six months later, Kamaka’s family has settled in Las Vegas, he has trained with some of the best fighters in the world at Xtreme Couture and feels primed to get back on the winning track against TJ Brown, who he faces at UFC Vegas 25 on Saturday, May 1, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Kamaka recently spoke with Fight Night Picks’ John Hyon Ko to discuss his first defeat since 2017, his upcoming bout with Brown and having BJ Penn as a mentor.

“I’m in a better spot mentally as a man and as an athlete,” Kamaka said.

With his family, including his son born in October, in Las Vegas with him, Kamaka can now turn his full attention to fighting. At Xtreme Couture, Kamaka trains with some of featherweight’s best fighters, including primary sparring partners Patchy Mix, Mads Burnell and Jeremy Kennedy.

He also frequently visits the UFC Performance Institute.

“What got me here was just hunger,” Kamaka said. “But now you’re adding on science and a different set of eyes skill wise.”

Kamaka also calls UFC legende BJ Penn a friend and mentor. He hopes Penn, who has had his struggles in recent years, continues to stay in that mentor or coaching role for other fighters going forward.

“As somebody who idolizes him and is like a nephew to him,” Kamaka said, “I’d like him to take a backseat and just be a mentor.”

As for how Kamaka (8-3) sees his fight with Brown (14-8) playing out, scheduled for the prelims of UFC Fight Night: Reyes vs. Prochazka, he expects fireworks.

“I expect he’s going to come out guns blazing,” Kamaka said. “If he does, that puts me right at home.”

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