Tai Tuivasa: 'Fighting In Front Of Fans Is Like An Addictive Drug To Me'
Yes, Tai Tuivasa cannot wait to get his hands on Greg Hardy - we're all well aware of that.
But it turns out there's also another reason why the Australian heavyweight is so excited to step foot inside the steel cage at UFC 264 in Las Vegas.
Just like us fans, the fighters themselves have also dearly missed the presence of an electrifying live crowd - and 'Bam Bam' is one of those athletes who thrives off their energy.
So, the return of a packed-out 18,000-seat T-Mobile Arena for the first time since the pandemic began couldn't have come at a better time for the fan favourite brawler who is on the cusp of picking the heavyweight division up and dumping it squarely on its head with a win over Hardy.
"I'm so excited. I'm ready to hear those cheering fans again," Tuivasa told SPORTbible Australia.
"I just want to feel that crazy vibe again after such a long time.
"This is why I fight, that feeling is an addictive drug to me. I love fighting, of course, but I also love performing in front of a live crowd. It just hits different."
While Tuivasa's native country of Australia goes back into yet another lockdown amid surging COVID-19 cases, the United States has somewhat returned to normality.
People have re-emerged.
The streets are buzzing again.
Music artists are selling out arenas.
And guess what, sporting events are being played out in front of full capacity crowds.
So, what better place for the UFC to go for arguably their biggest card of the year than Las Vegas.
Besides, it wouldn't be a Conor McGregor-headlined event without the bright lights of Sin City.
"There has been a shift since I was last here in March [during win over Harry Hunsucker]," Tuivasa added.
"Last time it was very quiet, even the airport and the roads were dead. There's a lot more people here now so I'm keen to go out and check it all out.
"I'll definitely stay around in Vegas for a few days after the fight too. I might throw a party and see what's up. I definitely don't want to be rushing back to Australia to quarantine."
As for the bloke who will be standing opposite Tuivasa when the cage doors slam shut, he's actually coming off the back of a devastating TKO loss at the hands of Marcin Tybura.
His previous occupation and run-ins with the law meant Greg Hardy's arrival in the UFC was a big talking point back in 2019.
Now, over two years into his new-found career, and the 32-year-old has failed to reach the lofty heights that many predicted he'd climb to.
Some big-name defeats, a disqualification and an infamous inhaler incident that resulted in a no contest means Hardy now boasts a professional record of seven wins and three losses.
Holes in his game have been exploited in the past and Tuivasa is very much aware of them.
"He's a big human. He's an athlete. He's been in both the NFL and the UFC - two of the hardest sports in the world," Tuivasa said.
"I'm not taking anything away from his sporting abilities, but I don't think he offers me anything in the fighting departments.
"He possesses a big punch and has knockout power, well, that's the heavyweight division for you. It's not anything I haven't seen before. I feel like I'm a better kicker, a better wrestler and definitely a better puncher."
When you ask someone what an upcoming opponent's biggest threat is and they reply with something along the lines of 'well, they're a good athlete', then it normally means they really don't rate said person on a technical level.
I mean, it's the polite way of saying it, right?
So when Tuivasa was asked that exact follow-up question of 'do you rate Hardy as a fighter?' he simply replied with: "Umm, not really."
"The thing is, my fighting style is that I'm aggressive and I'm a brawler. I hear that's what he wants to do too so I don't think it's going to be a good day in the office for him.
"Someone's getting hurt. Someone's getting knocked out. I don't reckon it's gonna be me though."
Featured Image Credit: UFC ANZ
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