As far as heavyweight debuts go, few have been as spectacular as that of Tai ‘Bam Bam’ Tuivasa.
In front of a boisterous home crowd in Western Sydney, Tuivasa stole the show when he landed a flying knee to the chin of Rashad Coulter, putting his opponent flat on his back and out cold in the process.
While the people in the arena were stunned at what they had just witnessed, Tuivasa was not surprised at all. From humble beginnings to the bright lights of the UFC, Tuivasa is adamant that he knew all of this was a part of his destiny.
“I pinch myself that it is coming true, I’ve always as a kid thought of better,” Tuivasa said of his new life as a UFC fighter.
“I come from a pretty hard place and I always knew that I could be better than what I’m from and now it’s just all finally taking place and I’m just pumped. I get to wake up and do something I want to do and not many people where I am from get to do that or have that luxury, so I am just grateful and I am blessed.”
A proud Australian of Aboriginal and Samoan heritage, Tuivasa is a loud voice for a rarely spoken of phenomenon currently taking place in the UFC.
“There’s a massive Polly (Polynesian) takeover happening and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Tuivasa said.
“Obviously, I’m Australian as well, but you look at these Polynesians countries, they are tiny little spots on the world. I think we are just opening doors for the rest of our Polynesian
I think you probably cop worse hidings from your parents than you do from some of these people who are going to give you a hiding in the cage (laughs) so the fighting aspect natural easy to us.”
I think Polynesians are the best athletes in the world. I just think the discipline and stuff like that is where our downfall is. Once we get over that and once we get more people doing it, look at rugby league, look at rugby union, the numbers are massive. The numbers are massive and that all started from something. That started from a couple boys and then a couple more boys saying ‘hey look they can do it, so we can do it’.”
“With fighting we are so far behind on this side of the world, where most of us islanders are, now we are opening doors. It’s taken a long time since Mark and Ray (Sefo) and David Tua. Now we have Joseph Parker, we got Tyson (Pedro), Max Holloway and Robert Whittaker, we got two champions who are Polynesians and people on social media want to ask ‘who who who who are the Polynesians?’ we have two champions of the world!”
Tai Tuivasa is a self-confessed fat boy.
“I walk past a good feed and put on 4 kilos, it’s easy for us fat boys.”
Tuivasa walks around well above the 120kg heavyweight limit, sometimes getting as heavy as 140 kilograms. Because of this, Tuivasa must ensure he maintains a strict diet and conditioning programme to ensure he can fight in the weight class.
Just by looking at Tuivasa, you can tell that he has lost a large amount of weight compared to some of the fights earlier in his career.
Tuivasa put on a solid workout for the fans recently in Western Sydney and admitted that he has been putting in the hard yards to ensure his conditioning is at the necessary standard to fight at the highest level.
“I’ve been running like 10ks every day and I hate running,” Tuivasa said.
“But obviously, my attitude has changed and this is what I got to do,” he continued.
“I visualise all of this and now it’s coming true and in this sport the winners are winners and losers eat shit. I don’t want to eat shit anytime soon so that means I got to put in the extra work.”
But this does not mean he won’t enjoy himself at the appropriate moment.
“You know how we roll, the after party is my thing bra, that’s my thing.
“I’m just a normal Aussie you know, I love to go to the pub and sink a few but obviously, I have to give that up leading up to fights, but when I’m done I’m back at it that’s for sure.”
While Tuivasa loves to get into the cage and fight, he admits that he rarely watches fights himself.
At UFC 221 in Perth, Tuivasa will take on Cyril Asker (9-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) of France, somebody Tuivasa admits he had not heard of when he signed the dotted line.
“I know him because of my coaches, that’s their job. I know that he likes to go to the ground and grind it out and stuff like that. But that’s the fight I suppose, he’s going to come and do what he wants to do and I’m going to do what I want to do.”
Asker holds a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt and has 3 submission victories to his name. While the Frenchman also hold 4 KO/TKO victories, he will likely look to pressure Tuivasa and take the fight to the ground to tire Tuivasa out and negate his power.
With a strong boxing pedigree and Mark Hunt as his primary training partner, Tuivasa will be looking to avoid the takedown and add another knockout victory to the resume. With an 8-0 professional record, Tuivasa has won all his fights by KO or TKO in the first round. Another dominant win could potentially see Tuivasa earn himself a ranked opponent in his next fight, something Tuivasa hopes to achieve by the end of 2018.
“By the end of 2018, I want to be knocking on the door for sure (Of the top 10).
“I don’t want to sprint and offer Stipe out or stupid shit like that. I want to fight my fights, get paid you know. I have a family to feed and I want to make my way up there for sure.”
My earliest combat sports memory is watching David Tua knock people out with his left hook. I am extremely passionate about combat sports in Australia and my home country of New Zealand and I endeavour to grow the profile of martial arts and its athletes in both countries. Persistent Brazilian jiu-jitsu battler.