Marvin Vettori wasn’t mincing his words after beating Paulo Costa at UFC Fight Night 196.
Tai Tuivasa’s win at UFC 264 will only accelerate his meteoric rise.
UFC 264 provided the perfect platform for Tuivasa to boost his credentials. He was fighting on the main card headlined by a Conor McGregor fight. This enviable slot guarantees millions of extra eyeballs watching him fight, and boy did he grab the opportunity with both hands.
Tuivasa made short work of Greg Hardy, a high-profile opponent and former NFL player, knocking him out in less than a minute. However, it was his post-fight antics that will endear him to fans across the world.
Immediately after knocking Hardy out, Tuivasa leapt onto the cage of the octagon and beckoned for fans to throw him a shoe. When they obliged, he pulled out a Jim Beam can, poured it in someone’s warm Nike and sculled in front of the roaring fans in a packed T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
On his way back to the change rooms he did another three shoeys, much to the fans’ delight. While this has been his trademark post-fight celebration for some time, and I’m sure he would continue the tradition even if no-one was watching, this practice would’ve raised his profile dramatically.
I can already imagine how many viral videos are being shared of him right now. People will begin tuning in to watch his next fight in anticipation of witnessing the shoey alone. Americans seemed to love the spectacle as much as Australians.
But there’s much more to Tai Tuivasa than his trademark celebration, and while he already has somewhat of a cult following, his star will continue to rise. Let’s dive into the background of this legendary Aussie.
He’s on track to become an elite fighter
Make no mistake, while Tuivasa is a larrikin, he is well on his way to becoming an elite fighter. He already has some impressive wins on his resume, including that of behemoth Stefan Struve. Recently he made the move to relocate all his fight camps to the US, to none other than AKA, an elite gym that has churned out champions like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Daniel Cormier, and DC has assumed the role of a mentor for Tuivasa.
With seasoned sparring partners and gurus like DC and Javier Mendez in his corner Tuivasa will improve at an exponential rate. He has already admitted that his wrestling has improved dramatically in his short stints at AKA.
Tuivasa being granted membership into AKA is a legendary story in itself. He agreed to quash the beef he had with AKA member Justin Willis, a fellow heavyweight contender who he traded verbal barbs with years ago in Australia. However, this beef was to be quashed in an unorthodox way. Tuivasa would be granted membership to the gym if he agreed to fight Willis in the gym behind closed doors with no spectators. Tuivasa willingly agreed, but Willis declined and coincidentally left the gym around the same time.
— UFC (@ufc) July 11, 2021
He’s extremely marketable
He is full of personality and energy, he’s brash and he’s forever smiling, and he’s fast becoming an Aussie icon in the US. There’s much more to Tuivasa than the shoey. He is an attention grabber. His ring entrances get the crowd on their feet, and this weekend’s entrance was no different. He busted into the arena grinning with Wannabe by the Spice Girls blaring on the speakers while throwing up ‘W’ signs to his fans in a nod to his roots in Western Sydney.
This is another trait that will endear him to fans. He’s proud of where he comes from. He even has ‘FTA’ (from the area) tattooed on the inside of his lips.
His fighting style will draw in fans
Tuivasa loves a slugfest and embraces it. His fights are often short-lived and violent. This will draw in the casual fans who love to see two heavyweight goliaths engaging in an old-fashioned brawl. There is something primal about it, but casual fans especially want to see big finishes rather than technical stalemates.
Tuivasa with his heavyweight power can most certainly deliver this. This style of fighting no doubt will land him prime spots on main cards as well as hefty performance bonuses for fight of the night and knockout of the night.
So next time you see Tuivasa downing a shoey remember that there is much more to him than meets the eye. He’s on track to challenge for a heavyweight title.