No one in MMA may be flying higher than Tai Tuivasa right now — and “Bam Bam” is hoping to keep things going with a bout against a former UFC heavyweight champion.
Tuivasa put on the best performance of his career in February when he knocked out Derrick Lewis in the co-main event of UFC 271. It was Tuivasa’s fifth straight win, and it rocketed him up to No. 4 in MMA Fighting’s heavyweight rankings. And now the king of the shoey is hoping he’ll get to continue his climb by taking on former two-time champion Stipe Miocic.
“I just think that that’s the fight,” Tuivasa said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “He’s in front of me, yeah? I think that’s who I’d like to fight. I was asked who I’d like to fight and I think that’s who I’d like to fight because he’s been around, he’s older, and I don’t think he’ll have many more left. I’d like to have a crack at him before he goes.”
Miocic currently sits one spot above Tuivasa in the UFC’s own rankings, however, it’s unclear if Miocic would have any interest in facing Tuivasa. The former champ has made it clear that he wants a trilogy fight against Francis Ngannou or a superfight with Jon Jones next. But with Ngannou out until at least the end of the year, and the mercurial nature of Jones, Tuivasa believes that he makes sense for an ex-champion working back up the ladder.
“I’m up there now,” Tuivasa said. “If I was No. 11, I wouldn’t be a d***head and go, ‘Oh, Stipe.’ But my name says No. 3 next to it and he’s No. 2, so I just think that [makes sense]. And like I said, he’s the best heavyweight of all-time, so why wouldn’t I challenge myself and have a crack against him? Just like the knockout king [Lewis].
“He’s the best heavyweight in the world, I don’t see why not. ... I think [Ciryl] Gane and the rest of the boys will be around for a little bit, as in I’ll probably see them, and I reckon Stipe Miocic probably doesn’t have too many fights left. That’s someone I’d like to say I fought before he goes. For example, JDS [Junior dos Santos], he beat my ass but at least I can say I fought him. That’s what I like about fighting. To say at least I had a crack, or I beat him. Sometimes I’ve lost and sometimes I’ve won — that’s another fight I reckon I’d like to challenge myself [with].”
But, of course, what a fighter wants and what a fighter gets are not always the same thing. With Ngannou sidelined for the rest of the year — and potentially done with the UFC for good — rumors have circulated about a potential interim title fight between Miocic and Jones. If that’s the case, Tuivasa would be left with few options other than fighting someone behind him, and that’s less appealing to the suddenly surging Aussie.
“I’m trying to go up,” Tuivasa said. “I’m on a five-fight win streak. If I was just coming in and did nothing and hadn’t beaten anyone and was like this, [but] I’m on a five-fight win streak. I’ve got No. 3 next to my name, and like you said, he’s No. 2. Doesn’t that make sense? I’m not good at math but it’s all adding up.”