Tired of ‘being the loser’: Tuivasa primed to rejoin the winner’s circle

Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa has promised to “murder” Poland’s Marcin Tybura this weekend at UFC Fight Night 239, as he looks to put another three-fight losing streak behind him.

The bout between Tuivasa (15-6) and Tybura (24-8) was originally slated to feature a month earlier at UFC 298 in California — headlined by Alex Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria‘s featherweight title fight — but it was forced to be postponed after Tuivasa suffered a torn meniscus in the latter stages of his training camp.

“I’ve had elbow surgery, I’ve had knee surgery,” Tuivasa told ESPN ahead of the rescheduled fight, now taking place at UFC Apex in Enterprise, Nevada. “I’ve had to fix up a few broken things to get me back to good, but I feel more ready than ever. This camp has been great. I’m back with my original team and I’ve got everyone from back home.

“I just need a win. I’m coming off three losses and it’s s— being the loser. I’m here to win [and] the faster I get out of there, the faster my birthday party starts.”

Tuivasa’s last fight came in his hometown of Sydney at UFC 293 in September. That day, he was totally outclassed by Alexander Volkov and suffered a brutal second-round loss by way of a rare Ezekiel Choke.

Volkov didn’t allow Tuivasa to find his feet in front of his home crowd. The Russian began with a series of damaging leg kicks, moved on to body and head strikes and finished by showcasing his slick grappling skills. Tuivasa’s lack of reach made it difficult to repel any of Volkov’s attacking flurries, and he was never able to land any meaningful shots.

After being forced into submission for just the second time in his career, Tuivasa left the Octagon shaking his head and berating himself with expletives. But six months on, he’s discovered a whole new perspective on the fight.

“I actually thought I did worse than I did,” Tuivasa said. “I left the ring thinking, ‘F—, I just got smashed,’ but I watched it back and I did better than I thought. But it is what it is and there’s no excuses. Volkov beat me that night and that’s it. I’ve just got to cop the loss and move on.

“I’m 30 years old and I’m still learning. I’ve got a few more years left and I feel like I’m getting better. I’m becoming more of a professional — sometimes. I’ve got better people around me, a better team that look after different things and keep my body in check. They keep me from going walkabout.”

The loss to Volkov followed defeats to Ciryl Gane and Sergei Pavlovich late in 2022. It’s not the first time Tuivasa has endured a three-fight losing streak, having found himself in this exact position after his disappointing loss to Serghei Spivak at UFC 243 in 2019.

He ended that winless run by making a statement against Stefan Struve, the start of what would be a five-fight winning run before his most recent speedbump. This time, he will need to turn his fortunes around against 38-year-old Tybura, who also tasted defeat in his most recent fight, falling to Tom Aspinall last July.

“It’s a little bit different,” Tuivasa told ESPN when asked how this losing run compares to his last. “The last time, maybe I wasn’t [fighting] too good, but this time I’ve lost a few against a few good fighters. I don’t think about [the losing streak], just go in there, do my job, do what my corner tells me to do and I should be right.

“I want to be active. I had a big gap off the last stint and then I had the [Volkov] fight and I just didn’t have my body ready. I feel like my body is getting better now. I’d rather do it like football — fight every weekend and not train.”

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