Former UH football player Tristin Kamaka going all-in on MMA career, ‘confident’ heading into pro debut at LFA 104


Tristin Kamaka

Tristin Kamaka has excelled in every sport he’s chosen to pursue in his life. And growing up, Kamaka played a wide variety of sports.

Kamaka was a four-time grappling champion, a six-time kickboxing champion, a four-time All-OIA wrestler at Leilehua and a standout football at Midland University in Nebraska before earning a scholarship to play for the University of Hawaii football team, where he finished his college career in 2018.

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Kamaka has zeroed in on mixed martial arts full time and is set to make his pro debut against Gunner Coronado in a 145-pound bout on April 16 in Shawnee, Okla. at LFA 104.

“It’s been a long time for me,” Kamaka told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “But I know once I step in there, it’s gonna feel like home again. It’s been a while but I’ve been waiting to get back home and lock the door again, and to take this opportunity and just run with it, fulfill some other dreams as far as other sports and as time rolled on in my life, the time has come to this and I’m excited for where I’m at now.

“A lot of confidence. It gave me a lot of confidence to just focus on one thing. I feel like I’m gonna be able to show the dedication and the time in this year and a half, the amount of work that’s been put in.”

In becoming a professional MMA fighter, Kamaka is joining the family business. His brother, Kai Kamaka III, is currently preparing for his third UFC fight, which takes place at the UFC Apex against T.J. Brown on May 1. Their father, Kai Kamaka, also had MMA fight experience in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As for his own family, Tristin Kamaka has two children of his own and is motivated to give them the best life he can.

“It was a very big stepping stone career-wise. It was really hard. I actually missed my son’s birthday which is very hard for me as well,” Tristin Kamaka said.

Tristin Kamaka has been training in Las Vegas with Xtreme Couture, joining other prominent fighters such as Dan Ige, Punahele Soriano, Brad Tavares and Kai Kamaka III among others, adding to a list of martial artists who understand they’re representing something bigger than themselves.

“I actually take a lot of pride in being a ‘Bow because being a young kid growing up in Hawaii, along with the sport of football being a big part of Hawaii culture and fighting,” Tristin Kamaka said. “Me being able to get the opportunity to play for my state, my home, was big for me because not many people get that opportunity and I would want somebody else to get that feeling just one time coming out to Aloha Stadium and just feeling that pride that people have for that state, that team, that program and you just feel that mana running out into that stadium.

“It’s just something different and it’s just something words can’t describe, that feeling. I always take pride because I got that opportunity to experience that myself and that culture being from Hawaii and it means a lot to the people there to put on a jersey and represent your state. It helps a lot and it build pride because although I may have ventured off to Las Vegas, when I got to Xtreme Couture, I walked in the door, there’s about 10 Hawaiians, all with their tribals and it just made it easier to be home. We know it’s much bigger than us.

“We got a state behind us, the flag behind us and just the mana that people bring to us, that they’re uplifting us, that we’re representing the islands. We feel for them that what they give to us, their support and their love and you just feel it from them. Although it may not be verbally or action, we know that they’re there. At the end of the day, we just want to make them proud.”

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