Tyson Pedro, who fights Anton “The Pleasure Man” Turkalj on the main card of UFC 293: Adesanya vs Strickland, does not play it safe or start slow.
That is the reason the nine wins on his record have all come via first round finish.
When it comes to picking his fights, Pedro has not taken the safe or slow route either.
Since making his UFC debut in 2016 - in just his fifth professional fight - Pedro has had a “take all comers” approach. While that has meant some losses against more experienced opposition, Pedro does not regret choosing a baptism by fire.
Tyson Pedro Fight Week Interview | UFC 293
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Tyson Pedro Fight Week Interview | UFC 293
As he reflects on his UFC career to date, though, the 31-year-old Pedro admits it has not been an easy road.
“I’m not angry about (being in the UFC so early in my career) at all, I know I was ready to be in the UFC. There’s definitely fights that I took on in the UFC that I could have waited to take on. Shogun (former light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua), (Ilir) Latifi and OSP (Ovince St Preux) were already at like 40 fights each and I was on five fights.” said Pedro ahead of his fight at Qudos Bank Arena in his native Sydney. “There were definitely fights in there where me, as a person, I was just like, f*ck it, let’s have a crack - high risk, high reward. I like learning on the job, but I’ve still got plenty to do.”
After a long break from fighting between December 2018 and April 2022 as he battled injury, Pedro entered 2023 on a two-fight winning streak.
In February, though, Pedro lost a decision to Modestas Bukauskas in Perth, Western Australia on the preliminary card of UFC 284: Makhachev v Volkanovski. Post fight, Pedro was hospitalized with a stomach bug that had struck the night before the fight. While Pedro does not discredit his opponent, that does go some way to explaining why Pedro appeared listless in the second and third rounds of the fight.
Losing in front of a home crowd was a bitter pill for Pedro, who has dealt with it by throwing himself back into hard training.
Pedro has embarked on a monster nine-week camp at City Kickboxing in preparation for Turkalj, where his coaches, which include Eugene Bareman and Doug Viney, have come up with a plan for his Swedish opponent.
“They watch a lot of the fight tape themselves, they let you know the game plan through training when they’re holding pads for you and stuff, and it’s trained into you subconsciously. It’s really good how they show you the game plan.”
With six fighters from City Kickboxing on the card, including Israel Adesanya in the main event, it begs the question: do all the fighters get the attention they need? Pedro does not hesitate in his response.
“Eugene is a different type of coach; I’ve been to a lot of gyms, big gyms, as well. He is what I would expect from those gyms. He is there teaching the amateurs from 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, teaching all the classes and leading from the front,” said Pedro. “I don’t know when he sleeps; he’s always watching fights, and that’s the same as (co-owner) Doug Viney and the other coaches there. From the top down it creates that attitude in the gym.”
A staple in Pedro’s corner is his father, John Pedro, who will once again make the walk with his son come Saturday. While the older Pedro is an accomplished martial artist in his own right, he plays his own unique role in Pedro’s corner.
“City Kickboxing is there for my technique and strategy. Dad’s there for my ride or die. Dad’s been out of the game for quite a bit with mixed martial arts, so my dad’s more there (for moral support),” said Pedro. “If s**t kicks off, I know Dad will be the first one to start throwing hands. You’ve gotta have that ride or die in your corner.”
Since he last appeared in the UFC’s Octagon, Pedro has spent a lot of time with teammate Adesanya, including traveling to Miami as part of the “Champ Camp” ahead of Adesanya’s victory over Alex Pereira in April. Pedro acknowledges that experience has had a big impact on him.
“It’s like anything, when someone’s the best in the world at something, if you’re trying to be better, I just think you try and emulate what they’re doing,” said Pedro. “There’s stuff with his mentality that he does in training, there’s stuff technique-wise that he does, and I definitely don’t copy, but there’s key takeaways - his outlook on life, he’s a very positive guy, his belief in himself. I know there’s a lot of fighters where they are always asking questions (about their ability), but he doesn’t have any of those questions or doubts.”
Turkalj enters Saturday’s fight on a two-fight losing streak. Pedro does not seem to buy into that statistic and sees his opponent as a polished fighter with good fundamentals.
“He’s an all-around mixed martial artist; when I watch him, he does all the basics right. He’s not someone to go underprepared against,” said Pedro. “He makes all the right moves, good striking, good defensively, his grappling looks like it was on point, so I’ve gotta be on my game.”
Turkalj, like Pedro, is a fast starter. Of his eight career wins, five have come via first-round finish. While the first-round finish is always a possibility with Pedro, he may be hoping this one lasts a little longer in front of his home crowd.
“I always want to go for an early finish, but I’m hoping for a good scrap for this one, to be honest. I want to put on a good show for the Sydney crowd and get Performance of the Night. Just extreme violence, shock and awe.”
UFC 293: Adesanya vs Strickland took place live from Qudos Arena in Sydney, Australia on September 9, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!