Abu Dhabi, UAE — Pandemic era MMA has given a few fighters in dire straights something of a reprieve. Among them, Tai Tuivasa, who will look to snap a three-fight skid at UFC 254 when he takes on the towering Stefan Struve.
Three straight losses used to ensure a fighter’s exit from the UFC, but heavyweights are scarce at the best of times. Still, the Australian who helped make the “shoey” famous knows he needs a win come Saturday.
“Three losses kick you in the ass a little bit,” said Tuivasa, admitting that he had a little sit-down with himself after his last loss. “I had a little look at what I want to do and where I want to go.” The end result is feeling more prepared mentally and physically, he said. “I’m ready, I’m ready to get in there and punch on.”
Tuivasa was on the short-track to fame early in his career. During this week’s UFC 254 media day, he insisted that didn’t go to his head. Still, the rush to stardom had an effect, he admitted.
“The sport, and what I want to do, and kind of how fast I was going up, I kind of had to sit back and think ‘f*ck, you’re going to give this a real crack, or are you just going to sit around, arse around a bit?'” he noted. “Plus, I was fighting those big guys. So I was like ‘sh*t, I’ve got to get my sh*t together.'”
That’s something Tuivasa feels he’s done ahead of the Struve fight. He’s looking trimmer, for one thing. “Stopped eating KFC for a little bit,” he quipped. And then there’s the motivation. “I don’t want to lose again, man,” Tuivasa admitted. “I’m not a loser.”
Still, despite the hard lessons early in his career, “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Tuivasa. “I’m kind of learning as I go.”
UFC 254 takes place on “Fight Island” (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi at the Flash Forum on Saturday, October 24. The main card airs live on PPV following televised and online prelims.