Tai Tuivasa says he is able to rattle off several fights in the UFC heavyweight division after going outside his comfort zone—starting next month with Don’Tale Mayes in Las Vegas.
After a brief stint with Daniel Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy at the beginning of last year, the 27-year-old Australian moved training bases to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as he prepares to’ churn out’ consecutive bouts in 2021.
In his only fight in 2020 last October, Tuivasa[10-3] was able to break a three-fight skid with victory over Stefan Struve, the win helping to solidify some of the adjustments he had made and convincing him that a move to the Middle East was inevitable.
“I think I’ll be fighting for as long as I’m alive, whether it’s in the cage or not,” Tuivasa told ESPN when asked whether a loss to Struve could have spelled the end of his MMA career. “But I wasn’t thinking of that; I had to go back to myself and think ‘why am I losing, there has to be something bigger than me just losing.’
“I think there were bigger issues maybe within myself and how I was living and what not. But I kind of fixed all that up last year and felt better than ever.”
“Asked to elaborate on what he had discovered with the warts-and-all self-assessment, Tuivasa said: “I just got relaxed. When I’m uncomfortable, I function best; just sitting still, getting comfortable, making dumb business decisions and whatnot, I just had to step back and think why I really want to do this, why I really want to fight, and stuff like that.
“So I did that and I felt that I put in a good performance for my last fight.”
But though on Crawford’s resume, he will most definitely rank number one, Bomac claims that’s actually a bad thing, not a positive one.
For Porter, by winning every single round against fringe contender Sebastian Formella in August 2020, he has bounced back nicely from losing a split decision to unified champion Errol Spence Jr. in 2019. Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) opted to try Crawford instead, instead of seeking a rematch with Spence Jr., one he would be offered considering his number one ranking in the WBC sanctioning body. After all, Porter is ranked number one in the WBO, too.
“The reason I came here was because I thought the fights were going to be on Fight Island, but now I’m fighting in Vegas, so that was a bit of a U-turn,” Tuivasa said. “But other than that, I knew a few people were over here in Dubai training-wise, a few friends from back home, so I thought ‘why not, I may as well come here and train and fight in Abu Dhabi, which is just over there.
“[I can] pump out fights this year because last year was a bit slow; I had one fight for the year. As fighters we need to fight to make money, so it kind of stretched me last year and I wanted to get on a bit of a roll and try and pump them out. So I thought I could come to Dubai and train and pump a few fights out before I get locked down.”
Ahead of his loss to Junior Dos Santos back in 2018, Tuivasa had climbed into the top 10 heavyweight rankings of the UFC, thereby putting him on a course of two more losses and a fall out of the top 15.
The Australian doesn’t really see his battle with Mayes as an automatic ticket back to a ranked rival, although he says he is willing to fight anybody at any time.
“Yes and no — I think any couple of wins in the heavyweight division will get you a good fight,” Tuivasa said. “For myself, now, I think I rushed that at the start.
“But to be honest, I’m a prizefighter. I don’t care if they’re ranked or not; if they’re paying me my money, I’m going to rock up and fight.
“So my next goal is to win these next couple of fights and renegotiate a good contract and then go from there. I’m in this to feed my family and set my son up. So I’m definitely looking to get back in the winning category and sign a new contract, and then I’ll fight whoever the f— they want.”
A renowned partier, particularly postfight, Tuivasa said he did have one minor concern ahead of the trip to Las Vegas.
“The flight might get missed, we might not rock up for the fight,” he said with a laugh. “I fight my birthday week, so if I win by first-round KO, I might be extending the trip.”