A recharged Tai Tuivasa says he is ready to upset the world again and earn a crack at the UFC heavyweight title in the process when he heads to France to fight the division's No. 1 contender Ciryl Gane in September.
The UFC Fight Night Paris showdown between the big-swinging duo was confirmed on Wednesday night [AEST], with Tuivasa to fight for the first time since his shock second-round KO of Derrick Lewis at UFC 271 in Houston.
Having worn a flurry of punches from Lewis, Tuivasa was able to turn the tables on his opponent, in his own backyard to boot, securing the biggest victory of a five-fight streak that has seen the Australian go from the brink of MMA obscurity to genuine heavyweight contender.
And he's confident he will make Gane victim No. 6 on his march to a shot at the title.
"It's a great fight, I think it's going to be entertaining, plus it's in his hometown, so the pressure's on him again," Tuivasa told ESPN.
"Obviously everyone wants to fight at home; if I could fight in Australia I'd love that as well.
"But f--- it's a fight, you know me, I focus on myself, I'm going to rock up and be ready to fight. And if I land, you'll know about it."
Tuivasa revealed the UFC had offered up lower ranked fighters that made little sense, the Australian adamant he knew his worth and that there would not be any backward step after such a sensational win over Lewis.
"UFC have a way of doing what they want to do, they have a way of pushing people into what they want," Tuivasa said.
"They were offering me a couple of fights that just had nothing to do with anything.
"So the plan was simple, we want to go forward, and there was only one option, and we ended up getting what we thought was the right fight. Now we're here and back to work -- and just going to do another upset.
"We're going to upset the world again."
With the future of heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou unknown, there were suggestions Tuivasa's fight with Gane could be for the interim title. While that didn't eventuate, Tuivasa's mission remains the same. He feels one more win, in typical KO style if he can get it, will make an irresistible case that the strap goes on the line next time around.
"Yeah definitely, that [interim title] was in the conversations as well," Tuivasa revealed.
"But like I said, the UFC is a big company and they have their own plans in the back of their head.
"But I'm the boy from western Sydney, we make our own plans, we do what we want and I suppose once I knock this fulla [sic] out there'll be no other option but to fight for the belt and not an interim. But all that s--- does my head in, I just want to rock up and get paid."
After a few months of down time back in Australia, Tuivasa has begun preparations for Gane with a stopover in Thailand before he returns to Dubai, which has been at the centre of his surge up the heavyweight rankings.
Currently working with the Hickman brothers, Frank and George, at BangTao Muay Thai and MMA, Tuivasa says the time off in Australia was exactly what he needed -- with an equal measure of work and play.
"I did what I wanted to do, which was to keep fighting and keep winning, I did that and I thought I deserved a holiday," he told ESPN.
"So I f------ had one, plus I had a lot of work to do -- because of COVID I'd been away from home for so long and had just been doing stuff over the phone -- but once I got home then I got straight down to business.
"At Drink West, we're now partners with UFC and stuff like that, so just working and drinking goes hand in hand with my job.
"But I'm back, I feel good, the time off was great, it wasn't like I went home and did nothing, I went to work straight away on my businesses and other stuff that you're meant to do outside the cage. I want to set myself up for when I'm finished this fighting gig, not just to come and be a fighter and then everyone forgets about me."
Once he is done in Thailand, Tuivasa will head to Dubai for a 12-week camp that will take him right up to fight week in Paris. As ever, the guidance of Shaun Sullivan and his other coaches remains the key to a maturing MMA career that now has the world on notice.
"I've been on a roll, I've been following my game plan and listening to my coaches more, I'm really maturing," Tuivasa reflected on the reasons behind his career resurgence.
"I'm getting more mature in this fight business, but I don't think anything is going to change in my mentality for this fight.
"I'll focus on myself, listen to my coaches and do what they want, and that's why they are really there; if I could do it all myself why would I need them? So it's up to them to tell me what I need to improve on, but other than that I'm sweet. I've had many fights and this is just another fight, but for a bigger prize."
Could that prize be a heavyweight title shot Down Under early next year, perhaps?
"Doesn't have a bad ring to it, that's for sure," Tuivasa replied when that idea was put to him.
"And I'm sure we'd fill up a stadium in western Sydney, or anywhere in Australia for that matter. But I think all the Aussies are waiting for it to come back home, like I said before there is nothing better than fighting at home in front of your people.
"But I'm kind of getting used to being the fly-in fighter; I start off with boos and I end up with cheers. But it doesn't matter to me, I'm just going get more fans in France."
And how might the Parisians take to his signature celebration?
"Those guys eat frogs -- they should be right with the shoey."