Family affair for Aussie duo at UFC Fight Night Adelaide

UFC Fight Night Adelaide will have more than just an Aussie feel - there will be a real family vibe with brothers-in-law Tai Tuivasa and Tyson Pedro on the Dec. 2 (AEDT) card, as well as their mentor and veteran Mark Hunt in his UFC swan song.

On what the 25-year-old Tuivasa says is "the best card Australia's ever produced," he takes on former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. Brother-in-law and training partner Pedro, 27 (7-1), will face off against former light heavyweight champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua (25-11).

Tuivasa (10-0) becomes the first indigenous Australian to headline a UFC event. Brazilian legend Dos Santos (19-5) is a former heavyweight champion and currently ranked No. 7 in the world. He knocked out Hunt five years ago at UFC 160. The No. 11-ranked Tuivasa isn't fazed, though. Rather, he is laser focused on redeeming his mentor's 2013 loss.

"Yeah, there's a lot of meaning behind this fight, there's a bit of emotion playing into it, but I'm really looking forward to it. I don't think it's going to go very long ... the quicker you get it done, the quicker the party starts," he said.

"I'm not in it to tip toe around the good fighters, I'm here to fight the best fighters and the baddest dudes," Tuivasa adds. "I'm up to fight anyone."

As more Australians scale the heights of the UFC, rising stars Tuivasa -- who recently broke into the heavyweight top 10 -- and Pedro have joined the likes of middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, Hunt and middleweight Israel Adesanya as Australia's top imports. And as the numbers continue to grow -- 21 male and female fighters now represent Australia and New Zealand in UFC -- Aussies will be making their presence felt more in the Octagon. Yet another, women's featherweight Megan Anderson, made her debut against Holly Holm in June at UFC 225, and will take on Cat Zingano at UFC 232 on Dec. 29.

"The Aussies and the ANZACs are just killing it at the moment, there's just a crazy number of fighters coming out of our area of the world," Pedro said. "It's a big deal. Rob Whittaker is the champion, he's literally the best in the world at middleweight, and he's great role model and excellent person."

"I think right now we're hot on the scene," Tuivasa said. "Not just Australia but Australasia -- Australia and New Zealand -- we've got some bangers coming out, and it's only going to get better.

"As we all know we're a bit behind in the sport, but talent-wise and skill-wise, we're up there with the best, and we've got our own champion of the world, so I think we're heading in the right direction for sure."

Friends from a young age, Pedro and Tuivasa grew up together in western Sydney and eventually began fighting and training at the same gym. Now they'll both feature on the same card, an unbelievable moment for them as they continue to climb the rankings.

"Two kids out of western Sydney on the biggest stage in the world for fighting and we're getting to do it together." Pedro says. "Loads of people don't understand the type of pressures going into it. The camps, being away from family at training - everything. We're both training super hard, and we're both super hungry; it all makes it a lot easier to get through cause we both understand. You've both got to do it."

For Pedro, his life always revolved around fighting. His father owned a "King of the Cage" gym, one of the first cage fighting gyms in Australia. A young Tyson helped set up the cage on fight nights, introduced the fighters, and was training from age four in some form of karate or martial arts. It seems Pedro always was meant to end up in the ring.

In contrast, Tuivasa spent most of his teen years street fighting before he fell into MMA and eventually made his UFC debut against Khalil Rountree Jr. in November 2017. In a move that could have strained any friendship, Tuivasa ended up marrying Pedro's younger sister. Indeed, only an MMA fighter would be brave enough to date another MMA fighter's younger sister.

There was some niggling at first, according to Pedro, but it wasn't from him, rather it was his father who was giving his future son-in-law some issues.

"Definitely some niggle, 100 percent," Pedro says. "They weren't supposed to be together at first and the tension wasn't from me, it was from Dad. So it was a long road for them, but now where they are [with a baby son] we're happy that everyone is together."

"I'm very lucky I've come across MMA and lucky I was good at it," Tuivasa says. "That's the beauty of this sport, it gives the people the opportunity to make a difference in different parts and where they're from. If I hadn't have gotten into it, I don't even know where I'd be."

One of those people was Hunt, who takes on 15th ranked Justin Willis in his final UFC bout. Hunt's massive influence on mixed martial arts in Australia, New Zealand and Polynesia is unquestioned.

"Mark Hunt is pretty much the guy we've all grown up watching, he's been around for a long time," Pedro says. "He's paved the way and that's why it's very exciting for us to be a part of his final fight in UFC.

"He's changed the game for all of this, but for people who've only just started watching the UFC they're just seeing him at the back end of his career," Pedro adds. "He's pretty much built this for Oceania and Polynesians, so that's a big part of why it's so exciting for us to be a part of that."

It's not an entirely unique story in the fight game, some of the best careers are forged through a tough upbringing, people fighting their way to a better life. Prize fighting has traditionally been the sport by which many have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps.

"We just want to show those younger kids from those bad areas, that anything's possible," Pedro says. "You can be successful, you don't have to stick in those circles of being in a bad area."

"The proof is in the pudding, I'm a prime example," Tuivasa says. "It doesn't mean change who you are as a person, and I've definitely had a change, I think it's about doing, getting out there and doing it. You're going to get people who try and stop you on the way, so you can either stop or keep pushing through. I do my own thing, but I think a lot of kids can relate to what I do and where I'm from, because nothing was really given to me, it's all hard work so, I think people can look up to me in that respect."

And now the two young fighters finally have the chance to share the spotlight both with family and their idol.

"To share the stage with him [Pedro], in maybe Mark's last rodeo, I think this is a very significant fight for Australia," Tuivasa says.