On December 2, on the main card of UFC Adelaide, Australian light heavyweight prospect Tyson Pedro will step into the cage with a legend of the sport: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
As you can probably imagine, the opportunity to battle an MMA legend in front of his Australian fans is an opportunity that Tyson Pedro is thrilled about.
“It took a while to get it signed, there was a couple of hiccups, but once they told me that it was Shogun, I was ready to go,” Pedro said on episode 100 of BJPENN.COM Radio. “He’s a legend and someone that I grew up watching as well.”
While Tyson Pedro was very excited when the UFC offered him a fight with Shogun, he wasn’t particularly surprised. He and Shogun are ranked close to one another at light heavyweight, and they’re both riding losses. Furthermore, he expected to be on the UFC Adelaide card alongside his brother-in-law Tai Tuivasa, who battles Junior dos Santos in the card’s main event.
“It just made sense as we’re both coming off losses, we’re around the same rankings,” Pedro said of the matchup. “I can see why they made the fight, and it’s a big fight for me especially with Tai fighting JDS. Shogun beat one of my mentors growing up, James Te Huna. So it’s a good chance for me to get him back.”
In his last fight, Tyson Pedro came up short to Ovince Saint Preux, giving up an early lead to tap out late in the first round. This marked the second loss of his professional career. The first came courtesy of Ilir Latifi, who he lost to by decision in late 2017.
Really, it’s quite impressive that just 9 fights into his MMA career, Pedro has already battled established UFC light heavyweight contenders like Saint Preux and Latifi. And while he came up short to both these men, he feels he’s learned some valuable lessons from both defeats, and is happy to have learned these lessons early in his career.
“I went straight back to the drawing board [after losing to Saint Preux] and I’ve been training harder than what I was training in the off-season before that, so it’s always a lesson and what you get from it. Instead of going for the choke [against Saint Preux], maybe I step back and keep cracking him, but that’s what fighting is, and that’s where the fight IQ comes from, learning. I’m very early on in my career and I’m having to learn on the job in the UFC, whereas a lot of these other guys have been… OSP had had 34 fights, I was on my I think 9th or 8th so it’s still learning and it’s a hard place to learn, so you learn fast.
“I think Latifi’s ranked number 3 now,” he added. “OSP’s ranked number 7, and I took those lessons early on in my career in the UFC, so I think that helps me prepare and be ready to be going for championships later down the stage. Like, if I had beat one of those it would have put me into almost one fight away from being a title fight and I wouldn’t have been ready at that time. So I think all of this is learning and part of my career it’s going to put me up there very soon and I’ll be ready.”
While Tyson Pedro is treating his two career losses as learning experiences, he’s determined to come out on top against Shogun. Although he has plenty of respect for his legendary opponent, he feels this is a winnable matchup so long as he fights smart.
“He’s got that very hard K-1 style, and his Jiu-jitsu is always on point,” Pedro said of Shogun. “But I think I’m just going into it with a youthful approach to it, and [I will] keep my long MMA style that I have.”
For Pedro, the ideal outcome is always a first-round finish, but he understands this might not be possible against Shogun.
“I always going for that first-round finish but I think I’m just gonna try and overwhelm him,” he said.
However the fight goes, Pedro plans to keep developing as a martial artist, and hopefully, reach the same mountainous heights that Shogun has.
“If I could ever even get to close to where he is as a legend in MMA, it would be an honor,” he said.
Do you think Tyson Pedro can get past Shogun at UFC Adelaide this December?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/10/2018.