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Carlos Ulberg: 5 interesting facts about the UFC's newest star

New UFC light heavyweight Carlos Ulberg at the New Zealand Fashion Week in 2018
New UFC light heavyweight Carlos Ulberg at the New Zealand Fashion Week in 2018
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 05 Nov 2020, 16:44 IST
Top 5 / Top 10
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Dana White’s Contender Series has quickly become the place to look out for top UFC prospects. And after last night, UFC fans will have a new name on their lips: Carlos Ulberg.

A training partner of reigning UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and current UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, Carlos Ulberg is not nearly as well-known as his more illustrious teammates. However, that could change quickly.

Last night saw Ulberg destroy Contender Series opponent Bruno Oliveira with a vicious combination in the first round of their fight, earning a UFC contract in the process. Whether he’ll go onto similar UFC stardom as Adesanya is a big question, but he’s definitely worth watching.

With that in mind, here are 5 interesting facts about Carlos Ulberg.

#1 Like Israel Adesanya, Carlos Ulberg defeated 3 men on one night - twice over!

Carlos Ulberg has won two titles in the King in the Ring kickboxing promotion
Carlos Ulberg has won two titles in the King in the Ring kickboxing promotion

When Israel Adesanya broke into the UFC in early 2018, much was made of his extensive kickboxing background. While ‘The Last Stylebender’ had fought in Glory – arguably the world’s top kickboxing promotion – his biggest achievement had actually come at home in New Zealand.

Adesanya was a three-time winner of the King in the Ring tournament, a competition that requires fighters to win three fights in a single night to be victorious. The current UFC Middleweight champion had won tournaments in 2014 and 2015 at both 86kg and 100kg – an impressive achievement by anyone’s standards.

Fascinatingly though, only a handful of other fighters have won more than one King in the Ring tournament, and one of them is Carlos Ulberg. Ulberg’s first tournament win came at 100kg in 2017, as he defeated Tafa Misipati, Ata Fakalelu and Nato La’auli to claim the crown.

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And more recently, 2019 saw him claim his second title, defeating Julius Poananga, La’auli again and finally Fau Ah-Lam.

Obviously winning a kickboxing tournament doesn’t mean that Carlos Ulberg is a future UFC champion – it’s too early to tell. However, given how well Adesanya has done in the UFC following his exploits in the competition, it could be seen as a good omen.

#2 He turned down an opportunity to star in the reality TV show, The Bachelor!

2017 saw Ulberg star in reality show Game of Bros
2017 saw Ulberg star in reality show Game of Bros

Very few UFC fighters have risen to fame prior to appearing inside the Octagon, but Carlos Ulberg is a man who breaks that trend. Back in 2017, when he was an up-and-coming kickboxer at home in New Zealand, Ulberg starred in the curiously named reality show Game of Bros.

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So what exactly is Game of Bros and what does it entail? Essentially, the show sees twelve contestants pitted against each other in order to “find the ultimate island warrior”. The contestants are pitted in various traditional Maori tasks, attempting to emulate the traditional work of men and women from the Polynesian islands.

With contestants seemingly oiled up 24/7 and wearing traditional Polynesian lavalavas – basically a patterned wraparound cloth similar to a kilt – the show comes across as a cross between Jersey Shore and Survivor.

Carlos Ulberg was highly successful on the show, making it all the way to the final four before slipping at the final hurdle. However, his appearance on the show raised his profile in New Zealand greatly and should guarantee more eyes on him as he attempts to succeed in the UFC.

And interestingly, he also turned down the chance to star in another reality show.

2017 saw rumours that Carlos Ulberg could become the latest star of The Bachelor – but he turned the opportunity down to focus on his fighting commitments.

#3 He works as a model alongside his fighting career

Like Luke Rockhold and Elias Theodorou, Ulberg also moonlights as a model
Like Luke Rockhold and Elias Theodorou, Ulberg also moonlights as a model

UFC President Dana White was reportedly both impressed and confused by Carlos Ulberg’s performance on this week’s Contender Series. White was quoted as saying “He’s a good looking kid, right? How can you have that many fights and have a face like that? It doesn’t make sense!”

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With this in mind – coupled with his appearance on reality show Game of Bros – it should hardly come as a surprise that Carlos Ulberg also moonlights as a model when he isn’t fighting in the cage or ring.

When he arrives in the UFC proper, Carlos Ulberg won’t be the first fighter to pursue such a side career. Well-known UFC stars like Luke Rockhold and Elias Theodorou have also dabbled with modelling before, with Theodorou even appearing on the covers of various romance novels.

And of course, many of the UFC’s female stars – from Paige VanZant to Felice Herrig – have posed in plenty of racy photoshoots over the years.

Carlos Ulberg, however, takes his modelling career pretty seriously indeed. In a 2019 interview in which he detailed his plans to make it all the way to the UFC, he was asked about how he was able to mix his two careers together.

Carlos Ulberg stated “I try not to get hit too much or bruised up too badly so that I can be available for everything”. And thus far, it’s pretty clear that he’s doing a good job of it, given he’s retained his good looks while also being highly successful in the ring and cage.

#4 He’ll be one of the most inexperienced fighters in the UFC's modern history

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At just 3-0, Ulberg is still highly inexperienced in MMA
At just 3-0, Ulberg is still highly inexperienced in MMA

As the world’s top MMA promotion, the UFC is usually home to the best of the best. The majority of fighters who compete in the Octagon have extensive professional MMA records, usually beating a number of UFC veterans. Many have also won titles in regional promotions or even in UFC competitors like Bellator.

Carlos Ulberg’s famous teammates Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski, for instance, brought plenty of experience with them into the Octagon. Adesanya was 11-0 in professional MMA when he made his UFC debut and had a win over veteran Melvin Guillard to his name, while Volkanovski was 13-1.

Carlos Ulberg, on the other hand, has an incredibly sparse MMA record. While he started fighting MMA professionally back in 2011 with a win over Kaota Puna, prior to his appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series he’d had just one other MMA fight.

Add in his victory over Bruno Oliveira, and Ulberg is just 3-0 overall.

That means that he’ll make his UFC debut as one of the most inexperienced fighters in the promotion’s modern history, despite all of his kickboxing experience.

Other UFC debutants with such low levels of experience include fighters like Brock Lesnar (1-0), BJ Penn (0-0), CM Punk (0-0), Marcio Cruz (0-0) and Rolles Gracie (3-0).

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Given the massive diversity in levels of success from those fighters, it’s almost impossible to predict exactly how well Carlos Ulberg will do in the UFC.

#5 He’ll be the seventh fighter to represent City Kickboxing in the UFC

Ulberg will be looking to emulate the UFC success of his teammates Israel Adesanya (pictured) and Alexander Volkanovski
Ulberg will be looking to emulate the UFC success of his teammates Israel Adesanya (pictured) and Alexander Volkanovski

Prior to 2018, nobody had really heard of New Zealand-based team City Kickboxing, but right now, there are few more successful MMA camps with fighters in the UFC.

Formed by Eugene Bareman and Doug Viney back in 2007, the camp has gone from strength to strength as of late, being named 2019 Gym of the Year by CombatPress.com with Bareman also being named Coach of the Year.

Not only do current UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski train under the banner, but the team also boasts another four current UFC stars.

Dan Hooker and Kai Kara-France – both of whom are ranked in the top ten in their UFC divisions – are representatives of City Kickboxing, while Shane Young and Brad Riddell, who is currently 3-0 in the UFC, also train with the team.

That means that when Carlos Ulberg arrives in the UFC for his official debut, he’ll be the seventh fighter to be carrying the City Kickboxing banner into the Octagon.

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With the team currently holding a combined UFC record of 37-9, will the pressure will be on Carlos Ulberg to ensure that the team remains on such a strong run? Almost definitely.

But judging by the success of his teammates, it’s likely that he’ll be more than capable of living up to expectations. 

Published 05 Nov 2020, 16:44 IST
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