UFC 254: Tai Tuivasa Talks Transformation, Shoring Up Ground Game

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Abu Dhabi, UAE — Getting back in the win column at UFC 254 had Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa in good spirits following the fight.

“That winning feeling is like a drug, and it’s been a while since I’ve had my fix,” Tuivasa (10-3) exclaimed after the fight. “It’s good to get it back into me.”

Speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press, “Bam Bam” responded to the critics that emerged from the woodwork during his recent three-fight skid.

“The only people who take notice of that sh*t [are] on the internet, you know what I mean? We’re in a sport that is full of ups and downs and people are quick to kick people when they’re down,” he observed. “Especially in this sport. But if you get caught in that sh*t, you become what those people saying or whatever they are trying to feed, you know?”

So Tuivasa essentially kept his focus on his training. Which included a stint earlier this year at American Kickboxing Academy, where the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Daniel Cormier shot to fame. He also spent time honing his ground game — an area he had struggled in previously.

“I think with the ground stuff, I used to get a bit flustered,” admitted Tuivasa. “I would just rush it. And I’ve come to notice that if you rush things on the ground, you’re kind of opening yourself up for someone to do some crazy sh*t. So I just didn’t rush anything.”

“That was the whole plan. My coach has been drilling that in my head. Don’t rush, don’t rush, don’t rush, don’t rush,” he continued. “You got three rounds. You got three rounds of the fight. I’ve kind of hid myself away this year and just focused on training. I knew if I didn’t rush, it was going to come.”

It did. Tuivasa finished the towering Stefan Struve with an uppercut at 4:59 of the opening round. Just one second remained in the frame. The Australian admitted that the timing was fortuitous.

In the past, Tuivasa admits that he’d try to “shy away” from working on the ground. But he put in the work this time, between AKA and working with fellow Australian Anthony Perosh. “Three losses, they’ll kick anyone in the ass.”

The work he’s put in at the gym has been evident in his improved physique, something that was noted more than once during Fight Week, and on the UFC 254 broadcast.

“I feel good. I’ve had a lot of comments and I’m glad. I’ve put the work in so hopefully something shows,” said Tuivasa, who noted he’s been eating prepared meals and “sticking to the plan. I’ve crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s and so I feel there was no other way this fight was gonna go.”

Of course, a binge on Uber Eats may be necessary when he gets home, he joked.

As for Tuivasa’s famous shoey, well, he didn’t get to partake in one following his win. But asked who, living or dead, he might like to partake in the tradition with, Tuivasa went with a classic. “What’s his name from Queen? Freddie Mercury. He used to party hard. I would have a crack with him. But he might take me out tho!”

Watch the full UFC 254 post-fight press scrum with Tai Tuivasa above.

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