Tai Tuivasa ready for a break, but not before he takes the bang out of Sergei Pavlovich

8:03 PM ET

Tai Tuivasa [14-4] has indicated he will take a break from the UFC in 2023 to recover from niggles and plot the next phase of his MMA career, but not before he has taken care of one last piece of business inside the Octagon – proving he’s a better “banger” than Russian Sergei Pavlovich [16-1].

The heavyweights face off in Orlando this weekend in a bout that has ramifications at the top end of the division amid the uncertainty around Francis Ngannou‘s return, Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, while Cyril Gane waits for news on just whom he might meet going forward.

And it was the Frenchman who ended Tuivasa’s five-win streak in early September, although the result did little to diminish the Australian’s stocks given he had knocked Gane to the floor before feeling the full force of his opponent’s skill set – his brutal kicks to the stomach in particular.

“It was a great fight, a great crowd, a great experience; it just wasn’t my day, Cyril was the better fighter,” Tuivasa told ESPN of his loss to Gane in Paris. “He was a lot more skillful than I thought. And that’s the thing with this sport, what you watch on TV and what you see are not the same once you get in there.

“I was close but obviously not close enough, and I’m definitely going to work my way back up to get that shot again and when I do I’ll rock up with a different game plan – hopefully a block-front kick, however you do that… not only is he so fast, he’s f—ing huge, the size of him. I felt like I could take the punches all day but after a few cuts it starts to play with your eyes and you get blood in your eyes, you’ve definitely got to change your way of fighting.

“But it was a great fight, I gave it all I could at the time, and as long as I give it everything I’m happy with that and I can walk away with my head high. But it just wasn’t my day.”

Asked whether he had missed his window to finish the fight when knocking Gane to the canvas in the second round, Tuivasa credited the Frenchman’s fitness as the reason why he was able to recover and then seize control of the fight.

“I knew that he wasn’t out, I know when I punch someone flush,” Tuivasa said. “And someone with that fitness, to recover from being rocked, fitness plays a big part. And I knew that once he started hopping around that he was back to normal, so if I let all my guns out I would have s— myself in there, like I did anyway.

“But I was close. When I hit him again when he was getting up, if that had landed, maybe that would have changed something, but it didn’t and that’s how the fight rolled out. He got back up and kicked the f— out my stomach. So it was an accumulation of things, he did well and had a good game plan and, like I said, the skill on the man was a lot greater than I expected.”

Tuivasa’s decision to turn around and fight just three months after his loss to Gane has been questioned in some quarters, particularly given the Russian’s own recent form that has seen him reel off four consecutive first round wins by either KO or TKO.

But few will question the Australian’s motivation for his move now, Tuivasa’s eye on a well-deserved break, full Christmas spread and irreplaceable time with a son he says is growing up too fast.

“I want to finish this year off with a bang, but I’m going to take some time off next year and let my body heel, I’ve been pretty active for the last two years,” Tuivasa revealed to ESPN. “I’ve got a few niggles that need to be attended to, and I think it’s time that I go home and spend some time with my son.

“He’s six-years-old now, he’s growing up fast and he’s a very smart boy, he’s asking where Dad is. So coming home; I’ve got a few businesses outside of the UFC and a few other ventures that I’m doing, which is all happening in December, I’ve got a few things on.

“So it’s just time to get back in the winning column, knock this guy out, come home..”

Tuivasa also revealed to ESPN that he accepted the opportunity to fight in Orlando without first knowing his opponent, although any surprise was largely negated by their respective places in the heavyweight rankings and the fact Pavlovich, too, is a fighter who likes to stand and throw.

“He’s out there trying to flatten everyone out, so that’s one thing you’ve got to be worried about – he’s got power in the hands,” Tuivasa said. “But if he’s coming to get in a flurry with someone I think he’s found the right guy and I’ll definitely be throwing them back.

“So I think it’s a good fight, he’s on a bit of a roll, if I end his roll it definitely shows people who the better banger is in the division. And like I said, I’m trying to get back in the winner’s column and it’s a great fight for the fans. I didn’t know who I was accepting to fight at the time, I had to ask after. But the opportunity came up to fight before Christmas so I just took it.”

While Tuivasa won’t be fighting on the eagerly-anticipated UFC 284 card in Perth in February, fans can expect to see the larger-than-life heavyweight inside RAC Arena taking care of business in other, more social, ways.

“I will be blind with bells on,” he said with a laugh. “And Drink West: how far west can we get than Western Australia? So there’s definitely going to be a few things planned; we’ve got Tyson [Pedro] on the card.

“But this one [against Pavlovich] about my family and about me. Of course I would have loved to fight back home, I haven’t had a fight there in years, but while everyone’s been resting I’ve been getting my head punched in, so it’s time for a break.”

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