UFC heavyweight Tai Tuivasa is writing a weekly column ahead of his UFC 225 fight with Andrei Arlovski in Chicago. Last week he explained what representing The Area means for him. This week he talks about he decided to quit rugby league for fighting.
I was a pretty good footy player back in the day. I was a front-rower at the Roosters – I came up through the age grades, playing Harold Matts and SG Ball before Under-20s.
I’m from The Area in Western Sydney, but the Panthers, they didn’t pick me – I think they hated me. I think a lot of clubs hated me. I had that reputation back then, I was the same old – same as I am today.
I used to love the sport back in the day, but it’s changed a lot. There’s too many refs and they’ve gotta check every try now.
After a few years I realised my heart wasn’t in it. When I do something, or start something, I always think I’m the best at it – or always try to be the best at it.
When my heart’s not in something it’s very easy for me to throw it away. And my heart wasn’t in it.
If I want to do something, I won’t just sit around and dwell on it. I’ll go and do it. So, I said I wanted to give it up – give up that lifestyle – and I did.
I was going through all the gambling and all that shit and I just hit a point where I realised it wasn’t for me anymore. There were a number of things that all added up and I got to the point where I was done with it.
One of the big things was being away from my family and what I know – the place I’m from. As I said last week, I represent The Area – Western Sydney – hard. And I was at the Roosters, like 50km away from home and that was tough.
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One of the other things is that they try and teach you how to talk – they want you to talk a certain way and do media training and act in a certain way.
They would say I’ve gotta talk to the coach more, or in a certain way. But, nah. That ain’t me. I’m who I am. That’s just me.
One of the things I love about fighting is that you just go your own way. You can be who you want to be.
When I left league, I had already had a fight – my first fight was when I was 17. I just knew I was going to fight and that I had more love for it.
Imagine if I was how I am in the NRL right now. I’d have the media on my doorstep every day.
I watched my mate Andrew Fifita, and they popped up out the front of his house. And he does all the media training and everything.
Imagine me! I couldn’t do half the shit I’m doing and saying now. Some of the language I use, they’d probably get sacked for saying it.
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They’re just playing football, relax.
I tell Andrew all the time that I don’t know how he does it. That’s the sad thing. These guys are just normal people, they’re just footy players. But if they’re on the pokies and step out of line even just a bit, they make the newspapers.
I mean, come on. Get a life.
There’s kids out there shooting up heroin in the streets and they want to go and write shit like that.
I just view life through a different lens. The whole footy thing, it just wasn’t gelling and I did what I did and never looked back.
Like I said last week – look at me now – Reebok’s making a shirt of me doing a shoey.
These guys would probably get sacked for doing a shoey.