UFC heavyweight Tai Tuivasa, who faces Frenchman Ciryl Gane on Saturday at UFC Paris, talks about how he expects his fight in enemy territory against the former interim champion to go.
KEVIN IOLE: What is up, everybody? I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. And there is a big UFC show on Saturday in Paris, France. That makes it big in and of itself because this is the first time for the UFC in Paris. But when I talk about big, I'm talking about two big hard-hitting heavyweights in the main event-- number one, Ciryl Gane, the Frenchman, coming up against my guest right now, number three, Tai Tuivasa. Tai, I'm guessing you're loving the food in Paris so far, eh?
TAI TUIVASA: The funny thing is, I haven't got to eat that much. But I'm definitely looking forward to getting into some croissant and some frog legs after the fight. [CHUCKLES]
KEVIN IOLE: So you're a heavyweight. You still got to cut weight, eh?
TAI TUIVASA: I'm a real heavyweight. Yeah, yeah, yeah. [LAUGHS]
KEVIN IOLE: Welcome to the club.
TAI TUIVASA: Yeah. [LAUGHS]
KEVIN IOLE: Eh, before I--
TAI TUIVASA: Understood.
KEVIN IOLE: Before I ask you about the fight with Ciryl, I want to ask you the ending of that Usman-Leon Edwards fight. And as a fighter watching it, what was your reaction when you saw, you know, final minute of the fight that Usman's got won comfortably? What is your reaction when you see how the finish of that transpired?
TAI TUIVASA: I think it defines fighting. It ain't over till it's over. It ain't over till it's over. Yeah. And that's-- that was a perfect example. Obviously, on the books, it looked like Leon was getting tallied up. But in reality, one punch, one kick can change and end any fight.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, it was. And I ask you that because it's like, you know, hey, you're in an important fight here. You're fighting the number one contender, the former interim champion, right? And the champion himself is hurt. So, you know, you could be right in those kind of positions. Is that a good reminder seeing that yourself? Is it a good reminder to other fighters that, hey, you can't let up until you hear that final bell?
TAI TUIVASA: I-- yeah, suppose so. Obviously, with me, I don't really think too much into it. I'm not going to give up till it's over, anyway. I'm not known for giving up, so. But I think it was great to see, you know, especially Leon's got a great story. And I think it was great for him. And it definitely ain't over till it's over. And I kind of live a lot about my life like that. So yeah.
KEVIN IOLE: Well, as you've come to the UFC and you've progressively gotten better, can you talk about your development that you've had? And what have been the keys to help you keep rising to that next level, right? When you went in, I don't think a lot of people are saying, oh, the UFC signed Tai Tuivasa. He's going to be the next champ. But you've taken each step along the way and kind of, you know, kept getting better and better. What has been the key to that progression you've made?
TAI TUIVASA: Just focusing on myself, trying to be better. And I feel like not only am I getting better at this sport, I'm getting better in knowing myself and knowing what I want in life. I don't really think too much about other people or other situations. You know what I mean? I kind of worry about my own backyard. And when I can build myself to help others, I think that's the main thing for me.
KEVIN IOLE: You-- I mean, do you feel like you're the best you've ever been right now? Is-- are we seeing on Saturday going to see the peak Tai Tuivasa?
TAI TUIVASA: I think the best of now. I feel like I'm just getting started. I feel like I have a lot more to offer and a lot more to learn in this industry and whatever you call it, this fight business. But, you know, I feel like I'm definitely just starting to fill into my shoes and, you know, walk my own way.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, when you look at Ciryl, great athlete, played professional soccer or does-- you know, can do a lot of things. You know, obviously, very quick, very athletic. On paper, maybe that wouldn't seem like the greatest matchup for you. But is that part of the fact that you're confident going into this fight is part of, like, the-- you talked about the growth you've made and your belief and you've done the right things to get yourself to this point?
TAI TUIVASA: I think the great thing about fighting is whatever paper says or whatever analysts say is at the end of the day, you have to get in there and do the job. And I'm a banker from Western Sydney. So I'm coming to bang. And usually if I dink him, I sink him. So it doesn't-- can have any game plan. You know, I'm going to-- I'm going to go in there and fight. That's what Bam Bam does. And that's what I'm going to do.
KEVIN IOLE: When did you start-- so maybe you already answered the question, because, you know, I'm going to use the word think. But when did you begin to take yourself seriously as a legitimate championship contender? Like, did you come into the UFC believing you would be the champion? Or is it something that's come to you as you've won one bigger and bigger fights?
TAI TUIVASA: There's just probably a couple of months ago when my son bought the fact that I don't have a buildup. That's-- that was really kind of the only time I ever really thought about it. And now, I'm like, OK, well, my son thinks I'm pretty shit unless I have a belt. So I suppose it's time to get a belt.
But other than that, Kev, I don't really-- I don't think too much into it. You know what I mean? I'm just glad to be doing what I love. And I'm glad to be feeding my family for something that I love and enjoy. And that's fighting. And like I said, if I keep learning, I keep getting better, I think the best of me is yet to come.
KEVIN IOLE: You've experienced this a little bit before. But, you know, you're one of the more popular fighters. And everywhere you go, people seem to embrace you. You fought Derrick Lewis in Houston. And so, obviously, it was kind of a weird-- they're cheering for Derrick. Now, you're going to be the first show in Paris, where you got to figure there was going to be a big hit for show. But you got to think those fans are going to have some cheers for Bam Bam walking out, don't you?
TAI TUIVASA: Oh, look, I said, I'll walk out to bangers. I come to fight. I feel like I'm entertaining. And what's not to love about that, if you're a fight fan?
KEVIN IOLE: Exactly. What is the key to getting Ciryl gone out of there? Obviously, a different style of fighter than, say, Derrick Lewis. You know, what makes him difficult?
TAI TUIVASA: His speed, his athleticism, the way he moves. I think it's all obvious. We know what he's good at. And I'm sure he knows what I'm good at. But I think what I'm good at is not known until it's known, if that makes sense.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. Well, and do you feel like-- you know, having the power you have. Deontay Wilder, the former heavyweight boxing champion said this, the other guy fighting me have to be good for 36 minutes. I have to be good for one second-- land that one punch, and that's it. And do you feel like in your case, that power that you have in your fist changes things for you, and then it lets you get away with maybe mistakes that other fighters couldn't get away with?
TAI TUIVASA: Oh, yes and no. Obviously, as a fighter, you have to be wary of what the other person's good at. But I feel like I'm underestimated a lot. And to me, I don't really mind. [LAUGHS] I don't really-- I'm not bothered about all that politics side of shit. You know, I come in, I win, I get paid, and I go and go and party.
KEVIN IOLE: So where are you going to go party after this one? Frog legs? What is it going to be after you knock out Ciryl Gane on Saturday?
TAI TUIVASA: So my son's coming to this one. So I think there's going to be a bit of a party at Disneyland. And then we've got our visa books. So I'm definitely going to go and check out the sand over there.
KEVIN IOLE: Well, look forward to seeing the fight on Saturday. UFC Paris is happening. And the main event, it will be Ciryl Gane against my guest, Tai Tuivasa. Bam Bam, thank you so much. Best of luck to you. Always fun to talk to you, my friend.
TAI TUIVASA: Cheers, Kev. Take care, mate.
KEVIN IOLE: Thank you.