NEW AUSSIE CHAM­PION

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - FRONT PAGE - Elisha Pearce

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.”

Pic­ture: David Swift

Tai Tuiv­asa has won the Aus­tralian MMA heavy­weight ti­tle.

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