NEW AUSSIE CHAMPION
TAI Tuivasa is one of the most ferocious men in Western Sydney.
Born and raised in Shalvey, Tuivasa is the Australian Fighting Championship (AFC) heavyweight champion and is set on emulating his hero, Mark Hunt, in the highest levels of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Tuivasa, 23, travelled to Melbourne in June to challenge for Brandon Sosoli’s AFC championship belt and won the fight after just 21 seconds.
Now the 1.88m 125kg Samoan fighter, based at Lions High Performance in St Marys, is working towards an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contract.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Tuivasa said.
“There is a bit to do to get there but I’ve done the main bit, which is getting that Australian belt.”
Tuivasa is a large man but a natural athlete. He played rugby league for the Penrith Panthers Harold Matthews team a year early, before being picked by the Sydney Roosters.
But eventually he realised his love for league didn’t encompass all aspects of the NRL.
“I was living in Maroubra with Roger Tuivasa-Scheck and all the good players ... but I was away from my family, my good friends and just away from home in Western Sydney,” Tuivasa said.
Since returning to live in Kingswood, Tuivasa has settled on a more disciplined lifestyle.
“I’ve grown up a lot more,’’ he said.
“I was always hanging around 150kg in sport and just rocked up and fought or played.
“Now I’ve grown up, changed things and train more and my partner has helped me with a lot.”
Tuivasa, whose knockdown of Sasoli took his MMA record to 10 wins and zero losses, gravitated to fighting sports from a young age.
“There was a point in my life (where) a lot of my friends were going to jail, at 15 or 16,” Tuivasa said.
“And when computers and You Tube came around we used to watch Mark Hunt and Ray Sefo in kickboxing ... all the time.”
With a future in the UFC becoming a real possibility, Tuivasa has had the chance to watch his idol, Hunt, up close.
He travelled to Las Vegas as a sparring partner as Hunt prepared to fight Brock Lesnar.
“I’ve been his sparring partner for about three years,” Tuivasa said.
“And he was my idol and he still is. He is the guy I look up to; he is the man.”
Tai Tuivasa has won the Australian MMA heavyweight title.