“Big Tuna” became something of an overnight celebrity in 2021. The Bellator light heavyweight, properly Ben Parrish, stunned fight fans when he knocked out Christian Edwards — a highly touted prospect known as a training partner of Jon Jones.
Just where does that fishy nickname come from? Parrish revealed its origin in a recent interview with Cageside Press.
“There’s actually a guy you want to check into from Chicago, Tony Accardo— a.k.a. ‘Joey Batters,’ a.k.a. ‘Big Tuna,'” Parris explained. “He was in Al Capone’s outfit, and they called him ‘Big Tuna’ because he went to Boston or something and caught a state record white albacore or something like that, a big-ass tuna fish.”
It was, per a profile on Accardo by The Chicago Tribune, a 400+ lb tuna. ‘Joey Batters,’ who allegedly had his other nickname bestowed upon him by Capone for his skill at using a baseball bat as a weapon, would later wind up day-to-day boss of the Chicago outfit.
“He’s a super gangster, and I’m a super gangster, so it just kind of went together,” Parrish told us.
Having knocked out the heavily hyped Edwards, Parrish (5-1) finds himself in a similar position later this month at Bellator 273. Last time out, it was Jon Jones’ boy, this time, it’s Ryan Bader’s teammate Sullivan Cauley.
“Here we are, fighting Ryan Bader Jr., and I was fighting Jon Jones Jr. I will pull up and Chicago overcoat every prospect,” Parrish told us, another tip of the cap to his mob-inspired nickname. “They won’t be pleased.”
On a more serious note, Parrish, who pulls triple duty between fighting, working a day job, and being a dad, is hoping that another big performance will help land him a steady gig with Bellator.
“I think win, lose or draw, man, my next fight, they’re going to want to keep me around. I hope so,” Parrish said. “If they don’t, whatever, I’m always going to do what I’m supposed to. I’ve been working my butt off, day in and day out since my last fight, because I knew this day would come where they were going to call me back to fight again. Made sure I’ve stayed ahead.”
Parrish added that he can’t wait to test himself against he undefeated Cauley. “The kid is super tough, I know it’s probably not going to be easy, but I never wanted the easy way out. I’ve never had the easy way. Nobody gave me any free rides or anything like that, I had to earn everything.”
Which is what makes his win over Edwards, and the groundswell of support from fans, all the more impressive. After enduring legions of trolls online who singled him out for his less than chiselled physique, fans getting behind “Big Tuna” to the extent they did wasn’t something Parrish had anticipated.
“No, I didn’t expect them to act that way. I knew that they would respect me, they had to, at least a little bit. I didn’t expect them to clamour to me,” he admitted. “I felt there would always be this— ‘he’s a weird looking fat redneck guy,’ that’s kind of what it’s always been around here anyway, until lately now they think I’m a celebrity — but I’m not. It’s kind of funny. But I do have a lot of support, and I’m a really grateful for it.”
Part of that support might just be his attitude. Following his win against Edwards, Parrish suggested that if he could do it — go out, follow his dream, win a big fight — anyone could. The everyday hero theme seemed to resonate with fans.
“Maybe. I have a lot of that,” Parrish noted. “And I respond to my Instagram DMs, I’m reading these people’s stories and stuff that they send me. I have a lot of people who struggle with confidence and their image, this that or the other, you name it. And I always respond to them and try to help them out. I’ve helped a lot of people, or they’ve told me I have, inspired them or whatever. They got in the gym after they saw me and they lost 30lbs doing this or that— my mission’s complete, man. That right there, you can’t buy that. Money can’t buy that kind of satisfaction.”
That sort of response from fans is huge for Parrish, and he even had a message for any who might be in a hard spot. “Getting stuff like that, from people I’ve never met, they just saw me one time and they’re ready to ride out and thug out for me if they have to— that’s priceless, man. God bless all those people. If anybody’s struggling that might listen to this, hang in there, your day on the warm piece of the sidewalk is coming.”
Of course, Parrish still gets his share of trolls, though not as many perhaps since the Edwards win. With a healthy covering of thick skin, the light heavyweight is more than happy to stand toe-to-toe with his naysayers, though he’s careful not to get too carried away.
“I have to be careful I don’t cross the line. They try to get me banned. I got called everything under the sun, and I went back after the fight and found a lot of them to rub it in that I won, and you can’t even call them a b*tch,” he admitted. “We’re talking about fighting as a sport, they’re flaming me, and I can’t even tell them that I can whup their ass, and they’ve never fought before, because Instagram’s going to ban me. It’s kind of funny.”
Ben Parrish faces Sullivan Cauley at Bellator 273 on Saturday, January 29, 2022 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.