The UFC doesn’t get down to Australia too often, so when they do, you’d expect the top Aussie fighters on the roster to be clamoring for a spot on the card.
That’s not the case with Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa.
The hard-hitting heavyweight is one of the most popular fighters from that part of the world, and he certainly loves his fans. But the knockout-dealing, shoey-drinking, fun-loving heavyweight said he plans to be at UFC 284 on February 12, but as a spectator, not a fighter.
Speaking to the media ahead of his bout with Sergei Pavlovich at UFC on ESPN 42 on December 3, Tuivasa explained that the option of taking a bout in early December was far more appealing than going into fight camp over the holiday period for a bout on the UFC’s Perth pay-per-view card.
“They offered me the fight. And yeah. February means camp would have to be over Christmas and New Year’s and I wanted to spend Christmas with my son,” he explained.
“And yeah, (the Pavlovich fight) popped up and I thought it was a great opportunity to get paid and enjoy Christmas.”
He may not be on the fight card for Perth, but Tuivasa said he absolutely plans to be in the arena for the event, which he is looking forward to enjoying as a fan.
“Oh, definitely, I’ll be there,” he said.
“Obviously, I’d love to fight in front of the Australian fans. But I’ve been pretty active. So I’m keen to finish the year off with a bang, get back in the winning column and then have a bit of a rest.”
Tuivasa has surged up the heavyweight rankings over the past three years, picking up five consecutive knockouts over the likes of Stefan Struve, Harry Hunsucker, Greg Hardy, Augusto Sakai, and Derrick Lewis.
But his last outing saw “Bam Bam” on the receiving end as he was knocked out by former interim heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC Fight Night 209 in Paris.
Despite that defeat, Tuivasa’s performance in one of the most exciting bouts of the year saw his popularity soar even further.
“I think my style of fighting is if I go out there and give it my all, win or lose, I can walk away with my head held high,” Tuivasa reflected.
“I felt like I gave it all I had and I just wasn’t the better fighter on the night. Ciryl was, and this is how the sport goes, you win or you lose, and I lost.”
Tuivasa’s latest test pits him against another heavy hitter in Russia’s Pavlovich, who has won each of his last four fights by knockout.
Marcelo Golm, Maurice Greene, Shamil Abdurakhimov, and Derrick Lewis were all finished in the first round as Pavlovich blasted his way into the upper echelon of the UFC’s heavyweight rankings. Now ranked fifth, just one place below Tuivasa, the pair will throw down on the main card at the UFC Apex knowing victory will put them within touching distance of a title eliminator in 2023.
Stylistically, it’s a matchup that looks a near-cert to deliver a crowd-pleasing clash, with both men loving nothing better than to plow forward throwing big shots.
“Well, yeah, that’s the narrative of it, I think,” said Tuivasa.
“I suppose that’s why they offered him to me. Everyone must be scared of him!
“So I accepted the fight, and then I didn’t really know who it was. And I looked and I think it’s going to be a great fight for the fans. I come to entertain the fans and put on a show. And I think that’s what me and Sergei are going to do at the weekend.”
There has been something of a logjam at the top of the UFC heavyweight division recently, with Francis Ngannou rehabbing an injury. But the champion is targeting a return in Q1 next year – potentially against Jon Jones – as the heavyweight division looks set to receive a boost early in the New Year.
None of that is of any concern to Tuivasa, however.
“I couldn’t give a f**k. I come here to get paid, feed my son, feed my family,” he stated.
“Whatever they do is their business. So I don’t know. I don’t know who even the numbers are. You know what I mean? So I just rock up and get my money and go home.”
And even a quick, clean knockout win for “Bam Bam” won’t persuade the affable Aussie from changing his mind and diving into camp for a spot on the Perth card.
“I’m more excited to be p****d by the side of the ring than starving myself over Christmas, you know what I mean?” he said.
“Christmas is a time for family and I’ve been away from home for a long time now and I think that’s the one thing I’m very excited about. So sorry, Australia, but I’ll be there in the crowd. I’ll be hyping up from the crowd.”