Despite putting together an explosive winning streak that has him on the cusp of fighting for the UFC heavyweight title, Tai Tuivasa never thought about what it would be like to wear championship gold.
- Tai Tuivasa will face Ciryl Gane in a UFC heavyweight showdown in Paris on September 4 (AEST)
- A win will likely earn Tuivasa a shot at heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou
- The 29-year old Western Sydney product has won his last five fights by knockout
That's until his son Carter put the hard word on his old man ahead of his bout with France's Ciryl Gane on September 4 (AEST) in Paris.
“My son's a big WWE fan and he was telling me John Cena and Brock Lesnar would bash me. I said 'you know Daddy could bash them' and he said 'Dad, you don't even have a belt,” Tuivasa said.
“I thought 'you little shit, I'm gonna go get a belt now' and now I'm pretty close. I never really sat down and thought about it but f**k, I'm close. Now I want to get that belt and give it to my son.
“I never, ever really thought about it, I never had it in mind. But I'm f***ing close. That's pretty cool.”
Tuivasa has rocketed into title contention on the back of five straight knockout wins and victory over Gane, a former interim champion, will undoubtedly earn him a shot at heavyweight king Francis Ngannou.
Tuivasa has won his past five fights by knockout. (Getty Images via Zuffa LLC, Josh Hedges )
It shapes as Tuivasa's toughest test yet – Gane is one of the slickest heavyweight strikers the UFC has ever seen, and his loss to Ngannou in January was the first defeat of his MMA career.
Tuivasa will enter fight night as a heavy underdog but he's been beating the odds for as long as he can remember and holds no fear at the prospect of taking on the fighting hero of Paris in the UFC's first ever trip to France.
“I work best when I'm not comfortable, it's been that way my whole life, so that works in my advantage,” Tuivasa said.
“One thing that's noticeable to everyone is his speed, he's a lot more agile than other heavyweights, so I've been sparring a lot of faster guys to get my eye in with the pace.
“Other than that I just focus on myself. I'll fight my fight and if I'm ready and fit I'll beat anybody.”
Victory over Gane will pave the way for Tuivasa to take on Ngannou for the heavyweight title, a prospect that seemed unthinkable – even for Tuivasa himself – not so long ago.
So it's only right that Carter will be ringside in Paris to watch his father fight for the first time.
Tuivasa has been based overseas for much of his win streak so he could stay active amid the COVID-19 pandemic and wants his son to understand why he was away for so long – and understand that any WWE superstar wouldn't have a chance against the pride of Western Sydney.
“This'll be my son's first event and we'll have a European tour after that, but Dad's gotta go to work first,” Tuivasa said.
“His dad gets punched in the face for a living, not like some other dads who go to work and come home every day.
“I spend a lot of time away from my son and my family, but I think having him there and getting to see the crowd and feel what I actually do, that'll be big for him.
“I want him to know why his dad has to go away sometimes, I want to show him and have him get a feel for it.
“It'll be cool to have him in there in the cage with me when they raise my hand.
“John Cena won't see me then, don't worry about that.”