Las Vegas, NV — Come the end of his fight against Tony Kelley at UFC 252 on Saturday, the feeling of his first win hadn’t really sunk in for Kai Kamaka III just yet. “I haven’t really reacted,” he told reporters backstage at the UFC Apex. “I was just reacting in there, I haven’t really settled things.”
“I’m just relieved that I’m here. The story has just begun,” he stated.
It was quite the opening chapter. Hawaii’s Kamaka took the fight on short notice, as did opponent Kelley. He’d fought for another promotion just weeks prior. Despite the timing being very much against him, the Bellator and LFA vet wet on to win a unanimous decision in an action-packed affair that took home Fight of the Night.
“That’s exactly how I wanted it to be. I knew if it was like that I would prevail,” he said of the all-out war with Kelley. “I didn’t know much about him. I took the fight on Tuesday. I fought two weeks ago in LFA. It was the same thing back then. I made him fight me. I made the last guy fight me, I made this guy fight me. He had his moments, but I came out on top.”
Getting to the UFC has been a goal of Kamaka’s for some time. It’s easy to say that about any fighter, but the Hawaiian has known UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby for years, which gave him added motivation.
“I worked all my life to get here. All my life. You guys will see a picture soon. I knew Sean Shelby since I was a little kid. He knew me, he knew I was working to get here, and he finally gave me my shot,” Kamaka explained. “This is just in due time. I knew him since I was a little kid, he was in Hawaii, and I spent some good time with him. He was a camera man back then, if I’m not mistaken, that’s how long I knew him. After that, I’ve been chasing him ever since. And he finally gave me my shot. And I don’t think he can be disappointed.”
Probably not, given how things played out in the octagon on Saturday. Speaking of, despite a few cuts, Kamaka would love to get back to work soon. “I hope to fight again [this year],” he said, adding “it’s a rough year for everybody.”
Kamaka now joins a number of more famous Hawaiian names in the UFC — Holloway, Medeiros, and Ige among them. Hawaiians have always been known for putting on some pretty exciting fights in the promotion, but Kamaka wasn’t thinking of that heading into the fight.
“I don’t really think about it like that. My team, we don’t take back-steps. We bring the pressure,” he said. “I’m glad I could live up to the Hawaiian spirit. I’m a fighting Hawaiian, and I’m going to continue to do so.”
Watch the full UFC 252 post-fight press conference with Kai Kamaka III above.