Alexander Volkanovski (

Combat Press 2021 MMA Awards: Gym of the Year – City Kickboxing

A new year is here, and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2021. In the coming days, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

No area of the world has more stringent COVID-19 restrictions than Oceania. Australia and New Zealand have all but locked down their borders, making the already difficult process of preparing for a fight even more tumultuous. Despite that, fighters from that region had quite the successful year, especially fighters who call City Kickboxing in Auckland, N.Z. home.

Kai Kara-France fought twice in 2021, picking up two knockout victories. In his first bout of the year, he finished Rogerio Bontorin late in the first round of their contest. Then, in the final pay-per-view event of the year, he notched the biggest win of his career, knocking out former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt at flyweight, which is quite the feather in Kara-France’s cap. That win will potentially earn him a crack at flyweight gold.


In addition to the rise of Kai Kara-France, City Kickboxing continues to house two sitting UFC champions. Israel Adesanya made the courageous decision to try and become a two-division champion by challenging Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight crown. Despite ultimately falling short in that effort, Adesanya would rebound to defeat Marvin Vettori by a wide decision in his return to middleweight.

Perhaps the City Kickboxing fighter who was most affected by COVID-19 was featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. “The Great” was originally supposed to face Brian Ortega in Mar. 2021, but Volkanovski tested positive for the virus, and the fight was postponed. The pair would ultimately be rescheduled to face-off in Sep. 2021, after being opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 29. Volkanovski would win that contest in a “Fight of the Night” performance.

The big three out of City Kickboxing went a combined 4-1 in 2021, and the lone loss came at a different weight class in a title fight. They did all of that while enduring very difficult travel restrictions, and, for those reasons, City Kickboxing earns Combat Press’s 2021 MMA Award for Gym of the Year.