Tai Tuivasa opens up on ‘big mess’ in heavyweight division

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Tai Tuivasa (14-3, 13 finishes) is expected to be half of the first UFC main event in France when he takes on fellow highly ranked heavyweight Ciryl Gane (10-1, seven finishes) on Saturday at the Accor. Arena of Paris. The hard-hitting Aussie, who knocked out former two-time championship challenger Derrick Lewis in February, spoke to The Post’s Scott Fontana by phone on Tuesday for this week’s Post Fight Interview Q&A.

Q: Your division is a bit on hold with champion Francis Ngannou injured and marquee names such as Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic inactive. Do you think there should have been an interim belt on the line this weekend for both of you given where you stand in the ranks?
A: Absolutely. It’s not, but I really think Saturday’s winner should have a shot at winning the title.

Q: Do you believe the winner will get the next move, or do you think it’s still complicated?
A: I’ve been asked this question many times, and to be honest, I really [care about those] parts of the fighting game or whatever is going on. But I think it’s pretty obvious, and I think everyone understands that the person who wins definitely has to fight for the belt. It’s just a big mess, you know what I mean?

Q: Last time you had Lewis who was happy to swang and bang. This is generally not Gane’s approach. How do you feel about taking on Gane’s particular style this time around?
A: I think the great thing about fighting is that when we get into it, we test ourselves. All I know is that I’m going to cause a fight. I’ll take it to him.

Q: See how vulnerable Gane was to Ngannou takedowns in their January fight, is that something you’re looking to exploit rather than keep him on his feet?
A: I never show all my cards.

Q: You beat Lewis in front of his home fans and now you have the opportunity to do the same with Gane. How did you feel the Houston fans treated you?
A: Houston fans are great. I really liked Houston. I liked Texas; I think it’s probably one of the best states I’ve been to in America. I like people. It was very cool. I liked that.

Q: Do you expect such a warm welcome this weekend? Everyone seems to like you.
A: I have no expectations. I come in to knock and just put on a show.

Q: You were a fixture on the fight cards in Australia. Do you miss not competing at home?
A: Absolutely. Personally, I love playing at home. I love performing in front of my friends and family. And obviously Australia has been a little behind with all that COVID stuff. But I’m sure when we can, we will. I would really like to fight at home and put on a show for my compatriots.

Q: You are known for your eclectic and unusual choices in battle music. How to settle on a walkout song?
A: These are just songs that remind me of — my mom and I used to drive when we were kids and… most of them are firecrackers. We would rock them.

Q: That’s what gets you into the fighting spirit: thinking about all those good times with your mom?
A: They are also bangers as songs. These are songs that I still listen to today.

Q: Can you give any hints what song you’re going with this time?
A: French fans should like it too. It’s a firecracker.

Q: Typical weight between fights?
A: About 135 [kilograms (298 pounds)].

Ciryl Gane (left) and Tai Tuivasa will square off in the main event of UFC Paris on Saturday.
Zuffa LLC

Q: Typical weight on fight night?
A: Fight night, I’m usually around 125 (275 pounds).

Q: Favorite meal after weight loss?
A: I don’t have a favorite, but lately I’ve had Italian, pasta and pizza. I think I’m just more excited about eating anything (laughs).

Q: Your favorite fight during your regional days?
A: I forget my fights, so I couldn’t really tell you, to be honest. I forget my record (laughs).

Q: Who do you admire most in MMA?
A: I admire Mark Hunt. He was a great role model for me, kind of welcoming me when I needed him and showing me the ropes. … Definitely someone I look up to, especially for what he’s done in the fight business.

Q: Favorite movie?
A: I have a couple. “Remember the titans”. “Titanic” is probably up there.

Q: Favorite activity outside of combat?
A: I like business, I like partying and I like food.

Q: Favorite video game?
A: I don’t play games. I never played games, really.

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