Fo­cus­ing on the fight

Long road leads Tucker from play­ing mu­sic to mixed mar­tial arts

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

Gavin Tucker left his Newfoundland home to study jazz in Nova Sco­tia. But one gui­tar after an­other was sold to keep him in the gym as mixed mar­tial arts be­came his fo­cus.

That sac­ri­fice, com­bined with years of hard work, has led Tucker to MMA’s big­gest stage. On Sun­day, the 30-yearold feath­er­weight will make his UFC de­but against Amer­i­can Sam Si­cilia on the main card of a tele­vised show in Hal­i­fax.

“I stayed in the gym be­cause of those gui­tars, so I guess that’s a good thing,” said Tucker. “I do miss them some­times. I’ll pick up the one acous­tic I have left and play a lit­tle bit but no gig­ging, noth­ing re­ally se­ri­ous any­more.”

It’s not of­ten you meet a mu­sic buff with a pen­chant for a left knee to the liver.

Der­rick (The Black Beast) Lewis faces Travis (Hapa) Browne in the main event at Sco­tia­bank Cen­tre. Lewis (174-0 with one no con­test) is ranked eighth among heavy­weight con­tenders while Browne (18-5-1) is No. 9.

Lewis, a six-foot-three former tow-truck drive, has won his last five fights. The six-foot­seven Browne has lost four of his last six, al­beit against elite op­po­si­tion in Fabri­cio Wer­dum (twice), Cain Ve­lasquez and An­drei Arlovski — all of whom have held the UFC ti­tle at some point.

Former cham­pion Ju­nior Dos San­tos, cur­rently ranked fourth, was orig­i­nally set to meet No. 11 Ste­fan (Sky­scraper) Struve in the main event. But Struve needed shoul­der surgery.

In the co-main event, former wel­ter­weight cham­pion Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hen­dricks tries his hand at mid­dleweight after a run of prob­lems mak­ing 170 pounds. He faces Hec­tor Lom­bard (34-6-1 with two no con­tests) at 185 pounds.

The 33-year-old Hen­dricks (17-5-0) needs a win. He has lost three straight and has just one win since los­ing his 170pound ti­tle to (Ruth­less) Rob­bie Lawler in De­cem­ber 2014.

In other Canadian main card ac­tion, Toronto mid­dleweight Elias (The Spar­tan) Theodorou meets Brazil’s Cezar Fer­reira and light­weight Alessan­dro Ricci of Wood­bridge, Ont., takes on Paul (The Ir­ish Dragon) Felder.

Tucker (9-0-0) is orig­i­nally from Ship Cove, N.L., and grew up study­ing tra­di­tional mar­tial arts. He moved to Antigo­nish, N.S., to study mu­sic and that’s what brought him to Hal­i­fax on week­ends be­fore he made the move there per­ma­nently seven years ago.

He soon found a gym in Ti­tans Fit­ness Academy and his MMA ed­u­ca­tion was on, with mu­sic tak­ing a back­seat to train­ing.

“I just de­cided to re­duce the qual­ity of life, just ac­cept what it was, do what I had to do to be in the gym as much as pos­si­ble,” he said. “I’m a real nerd for this stuff. I love to study and I want a fu­ture as a coach as well as a fighter.”

That search for knowl­edge has taken him to Thai­land twice to train.

“Thai­land’s been a huge in­flu­ence on me,” he said. “I plan on go­ing back shortly after this fight.”

Tucker has en­dured se­ri­ous shoul­der and knee in­juries along the way. Op­po­nents have dropped out and cards have col­lapsed, fur­ther de­lay­ing his ca­reer. But he kept on train­ing.

The 31-year-old Si­cilia (15-70) is 5-6-0 in the UFC, los­ing his last two fights to Gabriel Martinez and Dooho Choi.

“He’s got a lot of fights, that’s def­i­nitely his ad­van­tage. He’s been in there be­fore,” Tucker said. “But to be quite hon­est I think that’s his only ad­van­tage. He’s got a big right hand and he may have a lit­tle size and be a good wrestler but I truly think the only per­son that’s go­ing to beat me in this fight is me. And I’m not go­ing to do that to my­self.”

Other Cana­di­ans on the card are strawweight Randa (Quiet Storm) Markos of Wind­sor, Ont., ban­tamweight Aie­mann Za­habi of Mon­treal, and mid­dleweight Ryan Janes, a na­tive of Grand Falls-Wind­sor, N.L., who fights out of Vic­to­ria.

Za­habi, the younger brother of renowned trainer Fi­ras Za­haba, is mak­ing his UFC de­but.

Mon­treal-based French wel­ter­weight Nor­dine Taleb is also on the card, the UFC’s se­cond in Hal­i­fax and 23rd in Canada. Other cities to host events are Calgary, Hal­i­fax, Mon­treal, Ot­tawa, Que­bec City, Saska­toon, Toronto, Van­cou­ver and Win­nipeg.


Gavin Tucker bat­tles with Kent Pe­ters in a Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu match in Jan­uary 2015 at the Glas­gow Square in New Glas­gow, N.S.

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