Tyson Pedro of Australia interacts with media during the UFC 221 Ultimate Media Day at Hyatt Regency on February 8, 2018 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)" align="center" />
Tyson Pedro had to fight his father for the opportunity to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
John Pedro owned and operated the King of the Cage promotion in Australia and was acutely aware of the challenges and stigmas that accompanied a career in the cage. Even though the sport had taken off around the globe and outgrown many of the misconceptions and previous ideas that dogged MMA during its infancy, that negative reputation persisted in Australia and the patriarch of the Pedro family wasn’t exactly keen on his son Tyson earning his keep in a pair of four-ounce gloves.
So he stepped into the cage with his son to test his mettle and see if he had what it takes to make it as a professional mixed martial artist.
Tyson ended up short two teeth, but ready to take the first steps in a journey that has carried him to the main card of UFC 221 against Saparbek Safarov this weekend in Perth.
“‘You’ve still got a minute left,’” says Pedro, recounting what his father told him as their intense battle in the cage wound to a close. “I went to get out of the ring, I picked up my teeth and he said, ‘You’ve still got a minute-thirty left’ and made me punch him in the face for the next minute-thirty straight and he was trying to bite my hands when I punched him.”
The gregarious 26-year-old lets out a sharp laugh.
“He’s calmed down a lot, but he was crazy back then,” he adds. “I think he didn’t want me to fight because there was no money in MMA and it had a bad rep in Australia. He was so involved at that stage and he didn’t want that career path for his son when he had tried so hard to push it at that stage.
“He didn’t have the same vision that I had, but we’re in the same boat and he’s 100 percent supportive. He’s got my back now. He’s always had my back, but he obviously just wanted what he thought was best for me, but now we’re enjoying the process and he’s just as happy as me about being here.”
UFC MINUTE: Tuivasa, Pedro Embracing Fighting in Home Country
No one seems to enjoy being a part of the UFC roster more than Pedro, who earned first-round stoppage victories in his freshman and sophomore appearances in the Octagon before tasting defeat for the first time last year at UFC 215 in Edmonton.
He’s all smiles as he strides to the cage, dancing and singing along to whatever bubble gum pop record he’s queued up for his entrance.
This week in Perth, he’s looked like the Cheshire Cat, a permanent grin etched on his face as he soaks in the atmosphere and energy that has accompanied the organization’s first event in Western Australia. While he’s always happy to experience the build to fight night, this week’s event has been made even more special by the presence of his close friend, heavyweight prospect Tai Tuivasa.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” he says of the 24-year-old heavyweight, who squares off with Cyril Asker two fights after Pedro shares the Octagon with Safarov. “Our dads knew each other when my dad first moved over here from California.
“We’ve known each other for a pretty long time. I’m pretty sure since we were kids, but we dropped off for a little bit when we were in school and probably we started talking at 12 again and then obviously when he started dating my sister we started talking a lot more again.”
The fact that the duo that talked about competing at the highest level in mixed martial arts over MSN in their younger years are poised to fight on the main card of a Pay-Per-View event in their home country, alongside legendary knockout artist Mark Hunt and a host of other Australian fighters, is a dream come true for Pedro.
“I still get chills talking about it,” he said. “It’s one of those goose bump moments. What are the chances of us two kids growing up, coming up together and being on the biggest stage in the world?
“I think the biggest thing for me in terms of why it’s so surreal is because we took such different paths as well. It’s not like we trained together the whole time and then we made it; we both took our own path and now we’re both here like how we said we were going to do it. That’s the crazy thing.”
As amped as he is for the chance to share the card with Tuivasa and several other members of the fighting community from Australia and New Zealand that he’s trained with in the past, Pedro sees this weekend’s event as the beginning of something bigger.
In his eyes, mixed martial arts hasn’t really found its footing in Australia, but it’s getting there, and the talented light heavyweight is excited about being part of the vanguard of emerging fighters who will help carry this sport to mainstream recognition and acceptance in his home country.
“I really feel like I want to be a part of that generation that really kicks off MMA in Australia,” said Pedro. “I still don’t believe we’ve kicked it off massively.
“Rob winning the title was a big increase,” he said, referencing middleweight champion Robert Whittaker’s victory over Yoel Romero last summer at UFC 213. “I’ve noticed with media over here in Australia, it has been a big increase, and I really believe I’m part of that generation that’s going to make the move into mainstream media and get the UFC in every household in Australia.”