First things first. How is Jon Tuck’s nickname not “The Guam-aniac”?
The greatest export from the largest of the Mariana Islands is heading back into the Octagon for the first time in about a year. It’s been a long time since that lone UFC on FUEL TV 6 winning appearance last November, but the first-ever Chamorro native to fight in the UFC is excited and ready to enter the Octagon as his nation’s standard-bearer in enemy territory yet again.
In Tuck’s debut, it was Macao, China. In his reprisal, the United Kingdom. Soon enough, the world over will know not to tangle with the “Super Saiyan” Tuck.
“I know I represent the people who came before me and the people who come after me,” affirms Tuck. “I want to be known as the greatest fighter who ever came from Guam. They have so many legends about the chiefs from Guam. It would be an honor for me to be a chief. A ‘neo-chief’! I'm inspired and honored and I just love putting it on the line for my people and our culture. I love showing people we have fighting spirit. Although we come from a small island or chain of islands, it doesn't mean we can't hang with the world's best. Especially the last fight with Tiequan Zhang. I fought in the biggest country in the world, right? It was rewarding for me and my people as well. I want to go down as one of the greatest fighters in the world and not only the island as well.”
The 29-year-old born and raised in the western Pacific Ocean invaded neighboring China and took on its home country hero, the then 15-3 Zhang. ““I've fought many people where I'm the underdog or I'm in their hometown - I've been booed before,” tells Tuck, who embraces that role and that spirit of the underdog who has to win over the local hearts and minds. “I just bring it. I just go out there and fight. I have to make people believers with the skills that I have.”
And victories are aplenty in Tuck’s career. Naturally, he is undefeated in seven pro fights, including the unanimous decision over Zhang. Actually, the Octagon debut was the first time Tuck didn’t finish his opponent. Better yet, it was the first time he even made out of the first round without dropping (three knockouts) or stopping (three submissions) his opponent. In such a young career, a full 15-minute fight provided quite the learning experience for Tuck. Nonetheless, he will do his best to not let that happen again.
“I know I can go three rounds for sure,” laughs Tuck. “He kept coming forward, which was cool. I really enjoyed everything about that fight. It helped me as a fighter just because it showed me that heart does matter. Keep pushing, keep fighting back in any tough position you get in. Keep working and keep being the aggressor. For me, it was good knowledge. I know what I need to do in training as well as in the fight to make sure to put out the top performance in my next fight, which will be better than my last fight.”
Up next for Tuck is a lightweight showdown this Saturday in Manchester, England against “Stormin’” Norman Parke. The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner from Team UK, the 25-year-old is 19-2 with two hard fought unanimous decision wins inside the Octagon. Parke and Tuck were scheduled to throw down earlier this year and Tuck had to withdraw due to injury, but now, they’re paired up again to deliver an exciting matchup in Parke’s neck of the woods.
“I think he's a pretty good fighter,” admits Tuck. “His style, he likes to scrap on top. He likes to clinch up and go for takedowns. He kind of has a similar style to mine. He's a black belt in judo and people say that's my strong point. I think stylistically it is a good matchup. It's going to be a grinding fight. I think it could end by submission or KO with the styles we have. I'm just looking forward to the fight in general as a whole. I'm glad this exciting fight will be with Norman because I was training for him for the last camp. At least I get to settle this unfinished business with him.”
In preparation for Parke, Tuck routinely battles some of his division’s best at the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. As far as training partners, to start, there’s former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, which is really the only name one needs to mention to understand the caliber of fighters Tuck is working with. Besides “Smooth”, there’s former WEC lightweight champ Jamie Varner, former WEC middleweight champ Joe Riggs, TUF 12 alum Alex Caceres, and many more. It’s all run by head coach John Crouch, who is a BJJ black belt under the one and only UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie.
“Training with such high-caliber guys inspires me tremendously,” explains Tuck. “Knowing all the hard work that I put into my mixed martial arts career is paying off. It's rewarding working with world champions, and it is always inspiring knowing you train with the best. They say surround yourself with world champions and you’re bound to be a world champion yourself. I like to live by that and surround myself with good people and being with people who have the same drive as well, not only physically, but mentally. It's great for the mind. I'm grateful to step into the gym with the caliber of guys I train with. You can look back one day and say that you gave everything you could.”
This Saturday, two warriors from two very different islands will meet for a melee in Manchester, as Tuck collides with Parke. “If I get a KO that's great, if I get a submission even better,” asserts Tuck, who would like nothing better than to deliver another finish for his fans back in Guam in front of his opponent’s fans in the arena. “It all just reflects on what I've been working hard on and I'm evolving the techniques that I've been working with. If I rock him and choke him out, that's even cooler. For me to go into someone's backyard makes the victory that much sweeter.”
Jon Tuck: Fighting for Guam
"I know I represent the people who came before me and the people who come after me. I want to be known as the greatest fighter who ever came from Guam." - Jon Tuck