UFC’s James Te Huna fights against bul­ly­ing

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

Mixed mar­tial arts heavy­weight and for­mer Kiwi UFC star James Te Huna is fight­ing back against bul­ly­ing.

The 34-year-old has teamed up with Cen­tral Otago on­line anti-bul­ly­ing group Sticks ‘n’ Stones in their lat­est cam­paign dubbed #beagamechanger, which tar­gets bul­ly­ing in sport.

For­mer Sil­ver Ferns shooter Catherine Tuiv­aiti, nee Latu, and for­mer All Black Vic­tor Vito have also agreed to back the cam­paign.

Speak­ing from his home in Syd­ney last week, Te Huna said the cam­paign ap­pealed to him as he had ex­pe­ri­enced bul­ly­ing through so­cial me­dia, es­pe­cially when he started los­ing.

‘‘I’ve been in the pub­lic eye with what I have done and in the last cou­ple of years I had a cou­ple of losses and copped a bit of it.

‘‘It’s not good at all.’’

Hav­ing spent five years in Alexan­dra as a young­ster, Te Huna said when he was ap­proached by the Sticks ‘n’ Stones group to get in­volved, he had no hes­i­ta­tion.

‘‘I thought it was a great idea and I’m al­ways go­ing to back anti-bul­ly­ing.’’

Te Huna said cre­at­ing an aware­ness for young­sters that bul­ly­ing was ‘‘not OK’’ was re­ally im­por­tant.

‘‘It’s out there and it’s real.’’ Mak­ing sure peo­ple ‘‘were on the right path’’, whether the per­pe­tra­tor or the vic­tim of bul­ly­ing, was key, he said.

Te Huna re­tired from all MMA fight­ing in May after los­ing his fi­nal four UFC fights.

Sticks ‘n’ Stones mem­ber and Dun­stan High School pupil Harry John­ston, 17, said hav­ing Te Huna, Tuiv­aiti and Vito back­ing their cam­paign was great.

‘‘I guess it just shows that it’s more than a wee Cen­tral Otago group try­ing to make aware­ness,’’ he said.

Programme fa­cil­i­ta­tor and co-founder Karla San­ders said they were ‘‘pretty lucky’’ hav­ing Te Huna back their cam­paign.

‘‘It’s re­ally im­por­tant to us that the peo­ple we are us­ing are in the pub­lic area, [and] he takes his po­si­tion as a role model re­ally se­ri­ously.’’

San­ders be­lieved hav­ing high-pro­file peo­ple spread the anti-bul­ly­ing mes­sage would make an im­pact.

‘‘What we’re look­ing to do is make an im­pact with on-the­field be­hav­iour as well as off.’’

Sticks ‘n’ Stones is a pupil-led project man­aged by Cen­tral Otago REAP, set up to take pos­i­tive ac­tion on­line to re­duce cyber bul­ly­ing.

For­mer UFC star James Te Huna is be­hind anti-bul­ly­ing group Sticks ‘n’ Stones’ lat­est cam­paign.

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