Tai Tuivasa Won’t Follow the Same Path as Francis Ngannou as the Next Big Thing in the UFC

Tai Tuivasa likes that there's so much attention around his arrival in the UFC but he's not lost on where he's at in his career right now

Tai Tuivasa had a feeling that Francis Ngannou was about to get dealt a loss when he stepped into the Octagon with Stipe Miocic.

The Australian heavyweight saw the hype surrounding Ngannou after he won his first few fights in the UFC, capped off by a jaw-dropping knockout against Alistair Overeem, but still wondered if he was truly ready for that next level of competition.

“I kind of predicted it to be like that,” Tuivasa said when asked about Ngannou’s performance against Miocic. I think Francis could have trained a bit more wrestling for that fight.”

Now Tuivasa isn’t taking shots at Ngannou just for the sake of name dropping another heavyweight contender but instead he’s using that fight as a reminder that it takes time to become one of the best fighters in the world.

Tuivasa is at a similar stage in his career as Ngannou was when first arriving in the UFC. He kicked off his tenure with the UFC by earning a ‘Performance of the Night’ award with a flying knee knockout and now he’s on the main card of the UFC 221 pay-per-view for his second appearance.

Of course, Tuivasa knows that he’s getting a lot of attention for a guy just now having his seventh professional fight, but he’s also aware of the pitfalls of jumping ahead of yourself before being truly ready for that next level of competition.

“I thrive on that. It doesn’t mean that I’m going after the top dogs at the moment,” Tuivasa said. “I just want to fight the best fighters that are out there and within a year and a half or a year or two, I’ll be up there fighting for the belt or whoever’s up there in the top five.”

Tuivasa is also well aware at how opinions can change on a moment’s notice in this sport and once again there’s no better evidence to that than the reaction for Ngannou before and after his last fight at UFC 220.

Ngannou was being looked at as the uncrowned champion ahead of his first title fight in January with odds makers putting him as a solid favorite to beat Miocic. 25 minutes later, Ngannou was being touted as an over hyped heavyweight who shouldn’t have been in there fighting for the championship in the first place.

Tuivasa saw how all of that unfolded but once again he wasn’t all that surprised.

In fact, Tuivasa expects those kinds of reactions, which is why he’s prepared to deal with adorning fans telling him he’s the next big thing one minute and then saying he’s a product of favorable matchmaking if he ever hits a stumbling block in his career.

The difference for Tuivasa is that he’s ready to deal with it because that’s just how the sport goes and he already knows you can’t please everybody all the time.

“This sport, it’s a cutthroat sport,” Tuivasa said. “Winners are grinners and losers eat s–t. I’m just going to keep winning. The pressure it molds me, it makes me strive for me.

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.