Tai Tuivasa


TAI Tuivasa always envisaged the moment his face would be plastered on billboards across the globe.
And he has long dreamt of the day he would be fighting under the bright lights in the heavyweight division.
Now, the 23-year-old is set to realise his boyhood dream after penning a four-fight contract with the UFC.
“I’m pumped. I can’t wait,” the devastating Sydney striker said.
“I love fighting but I never thought I would on the world stage. It’s a massive buzz.
“I’ve been walking out (to the octagon) for people and now it’s my turn.”
Tuivasa, an Aboriginal with Samoan heritage who hails from Mt Druitt in Sydney’s west, received the life-changing phone call from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.
He immediately broke the news to partner Brierley before eagerly calling coach Shaun Sullivan to alert the team at his gym, Lions High Performance Centre.
Speaking exclusively to the Herald Sun, Tuivasa told of the moment he relayed the news to his parents.
“My mum’s actually here right now and they’re pretty excited,” Tuivasa said.
“It’s a happy place right now.”
The quietly spoken giant said news of his move to the UFC was like nothing else, with years of blood, sweat and tears finally coming to fruition.
“It’s a bit surreal,” Tuivasa said.
“I haven’t fought on anything like this and until I see my face on a poster fighting for a belt or something like that, I’ll be a bit more pumped then.”
Tuivasa’s fans will have to be patient, however, with 120kg and 188cm monster unlikely to make his UFC debut until next year.
He won’t feature at UFC Fight Night Melbourne on November 27, despite a strong push from his team to be a late inclusion on the card. But that won’t deflate his enthusiasm.
“Fighting in Australia would be the ultimate … it’s home, but getting the contract and knowing my next fight is in the UFC, I’m pumped enough,” he said.
It gives Tuivasa a chance to prepare for fatherhood.
“I’m just about to have a baby, so I’ve got time to think about that,” Tuivasa said.
“Then I’ll be ready to roll. I can’t wait. That’s what drives me.”
Tuivasa’s rise to prominence comes hot on the heels of his recent victory over former UFC veteran James McSweeney at Australian Fighting Championships 17 at Melbourne Pavilion.
Tuivasa was handed a controversial stoppage win when McSweeney was unable to answer the bell for Round 2, complaining of an eye problem.
Defending his AFC heavyweight crown for the first time, Tuivasa then mounted a serious case to earn a professional contract.
“Tai was lucky enough to have some good interest from a lot of promotions around the world but we are really happy that he has signed with the UFC, it’s home to the best fighter in the world and I’m excited for Tai to show why he belongs there,” Sullivan said.
“It’s an awesome achievement and I’m so proud of the work he has put in to get there. It hasn’t been easy but for a long time we have been confident that he would be fighting in the UFC.
Tai doesn’t want to be someone who just makes the UFC he wants to be a champion, and at 23 years old, his best years are ahead of him.
“It’s not only exciting times for our gym and me to have Tai in the UFC but it’s exciting times for Australia to have another talented Aussie represent our country on the world stage.”
Tuivasa follows in the footsteps of Hector Lombard, Soa Palelei, Daniel Kelly, Jake Matthews, Daniel Hooker and Vik Grujic, who have cut their teeth in the AFC and won UFC contracts.
But to survive on the world stage, Tuivasa knows he must take his game to another level.
“It should be a massive step up,” Tuivasa said.
“They’re the best fighters in the world, but as long as I get myself ready to go, I think I should be all right.”
He aims to replicate the deeds of his mentor Mark Hunt, a renowned knockout artist who regards Tuivasa as one of the world’s hardest hitters.
“Mark and I are very similar fighters,” Tuivasa said.
“We both have our own way of fighting … get in there and knock someone out. I’ve looked up to him as a role model — I always have — and he was one of the first fighters I watched was Mark Hunt and after I watched one of his fights I was like ‘yeah, he’s a gangster’.” Source: www.foxsports.com.au