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Tai Tuivasa says training at AKA proved ‘I’m not a loser - I’m a killer’

Some serious soul searching and a stint at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in America has Australian Heavyweight Tai Tuivasa feeling like a killer again coming into his UFC 254 fight with Stefan Struve.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Australian Heavyweight Tai Tuivasa in the cage, to the point where a joke Tuivasa made on Instagram about being cut from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) actually had a lot of people believing he was done with the fight promotion. After three losses in a row, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise. But, Tuivasa returns to action this weekend (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) against Stefan Struve at UFC 254.

And he’ll have some new skills in his toolbox to show off.

Before the pandemic struck, Tuivasa was settling in America and training at AKA alongside contemporaries he considers legends: studs like Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez.

“It was a bit of a wake up call,” Tuivasa said during a UFC 254 media scrum. “Kind of shows you where you’re at in terms of ... my fighting’s good, I’m a good fighter. But, when it comes to MMA, I kind of had to ... and I’m an honest fella, I’m pretty honest. And being in Australia I might be in a room with three killers. Walking into a room with a hundred of ‘em, it opens your eyes and gives you a benchmark of where you’re at. But to be offered and welcomed at AKA by ‘DC’ and the boys, I couldn’t ask for anything better.

“I’m a bit of a clown, I like to have fun, I like to get on the piss, as you do,” he continued. “But, it’s like I said, three losses will kick anyone in the ass. And that’s where I had to be honest with myself. I don’t want to lose again. I’m not a loser. I’m a killer. That’s what I do. Just to be around those guys, it makes you want to be better at doing what you’re doing.”

He may not have had as much time at AKA before the lockdown sent him back to Australia, but the time off gave him time to sort his fighting goals out in his head.

“I’ve been switched on. I had to ... three losses kind of kick your ass,” he said. “I had to have a sit down with myself and have a little look at what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go and I feel a lot more prepared mentally and physically, so I’m ready. I’m ready to go in there and punch on. ... Kind of how fast I was going up, I had to sit back and kind of think ‘F**k, are you gonna give this a good crack or are you gonna just sit around and arse around about it. And I got those big c*nts, those big guys. I was fighting big guys so I was like s**t, I gotta get my s** together.

“I think through my time in the UFC I’ve learned don’t be the young boar and try to get it all at once,” he continued. “I think I’m ready for a three round fight, not just physically but mentally. I think before it wasn’t really mentally thinking like that. So I’m definitely ready to fight three fives, but you know me. Once I’m in there and I see the opening, I’m going to go for it.”

And of course it wouldn’t be a Tuivasa article without some mention of the infamous shoey, the disgusting habit he popularized in MMA where someone drinks beer from a used shoe with spit in it. According to Tai, it’s shoeys all around if he wins on Saturday, COVID-19 be damned.

“We’re Aussies, brother. We don’t give a s**t,” he said. “Well, some people might, but not where I’m from. We got worse things to worry about catching, I think.” will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 254: “Khabib vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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