Headlining in native New Zealand makes diet worth it for James Te Huna

James Te Huna loves food, but he had to keep his sweet tooth in check in order to cut to middleweight for the first time ahead of his UFC Fight Night main event with Nate Marquardt.

James Te Huna has lived in Australia for 16 years, but he remains a native of New Zealand.

Fiona Goodall / Zuffa LLC

Moving down in weight does not come without sacrifices. Just ask James Te Huna.

The Australia-based UFC fighter has competed his entire career at light heavyweight and with a fair amount of success. But after two straight losses, Te Huna decided to make a change. He was going to attempt to get down to middleweight and that would require going on a diet.

Te Huna was doing really well with it, too, until a few weeks ago. Somehow, he managed to sneak away from his coaches and training partners and walk into a bakery. There, he ordered his favorite: steak and cheese pie, an Aussie staple.

"I had to," Te Huna told FOX Sports with a laugh.

That little bit of cheating doesn’t figure to affect Te Huna much this week, when he'll cut to 185 pounds for the first time. He doesn't plan on letting anything ruin his homecoming. When Te Huna meets Nate Marquardt on Saturday at UFC Fight Night, he'll be headlining the first UFC event in his native New Zealand.

It's a dream come true for me. I dreamed about this when I was a kid. It's the biggest reward.

-James Te Huna on fighting in his home country

And that's even more satiating for Te Huna than a meaty slice of pie.

"It's a huge deal for me," the Kiwi said of fighting in New Zealand. "It's a dream come true for me. I dreamed about this when I was a kid. It's the biggest reward."

Te Huna (16-7) has lived in Australia for the last 16 years, so he feels like he represents both countries. For the last 4 ½ weeks, though, Te Huna has been back in Auckland, training and doing media. He's feeling the love -- and the buzz -- from the local fans.

"This is a country filled with huge sports fans," Te Huna said. "They're big on contact and combat sports."

Te Huna doesn't feel any pressure having to perform for the home crowd and he also isn't bothered that he has lost two UFC fights in a row. He doesn't believe his job is on the line and even if he did, he wouldn’t think about it.

Nate Marquardt (left) meets James Te Huna in the main event of UFC Fight Night New Zealand.

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

"It brings you down," Te Huna said. "That's not what I want."

In fairness to Te Huna, he has a submission loss to Glover Teixeira and a knockout defeat against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua most recently after winning five of six in the UFC. It's also pretty difficult to go from headlining a UFC show to a pink slip, so Te Huna has that going for him.

Marquardt (32-13-2) is also on a losing streak -- three straight -- and he is also changing divisions. He has fought the last two years at welterweight after a very solid career at middleweight.

"This is the weight he should have been fighting at," Te Huna said.

Maybe Te Huna, too. He's not quite sure yet. He knows he has lost some muscle mass since making the decision to fight at 185. And he lost even more trips to the bakery.

"But that's what you gotta do when you drop a weight class," Te Huna said.

Of course, being the main event in New Zealand makes it all worth it. There will be plenty of steak and cheese pies to be devoured after Saturday night.

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