Tyson Pedro on how UFC fighting is a human form of chess and why his mum’s banned from watching his bouts. By Richard Cooke.


Fists of fate: Tyson Pedro, 26, mixed martial artist

It’s been a long path. About 17 years now of fighting. From a kid all the way up to getting into the cage. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to jump in and get the call-up for the UFC and then it’s been full steam ahead, with everything happening very fast. 

I’ve had Kenpō karate, Brazilian ju-jitsu, Japanese ju-jitsu, amateur boxing. Kickboxing, Muay Thai. Now through MMA, I’ve had to have wrestling. I wouldn’t say it was as formal as the other training that I’ve done.

Martial arts had been pretty much the story of my life. Everything that I’ve done, whether it’s been rugby league or rugby union… I’ve done tennis, I’ve done rock climbing, but it’s always led back to some type of martial art. 

My father was a black belt. He owned King of the Cage in Australia. He taught and raised me in martial arts.

I think it was a lot different when I was younger. It wasn’t by choice then. When your parents tell you to do a sport, or they’ve always done a sport, it’s a little bit more forced. But as martial arts moulded me through discipline and everything martial arts gives you … it became my choice. I came to love it so. 

I was probably rebelling a little bit, as you do when you’re a teenager or when you’re going through any family dramas. I picked it back up and I was able to … get to do something that I love as a job.

My parents were very good at letting me try everything. Even though my dad was very strict with me with martial arts, my mum had me try out the piano, clarinet, a lot of educational things. My mum was big on schooling, so I went to St Marys Senior High School [in Sydney], which is a selective school for academics. Didn’t do too well there, because all I wanted to do was train.

Dad definitely didn’t want me to become a professional fighter. When I first told him that I wanted to fight, that was the last thing he wanted me to do. That was definitely a hard lesson learnt by him, but I think once he realised the level that I was at and that  he could see that I was maybe going to have a good run at this, he’s backed me ever since. 

He’d gone through a time when combat sports weren’t making money. So it was hard for him to say, “Son, go do that”, when he’d already had a run at it and it wasn’t as big at the time. 

He – as well as my mum – wanted me to go to university. They were both pushing me down the education path. But I guess that’s probably what the rebellion side was, that, “Okay, well I’m going to fight then.” 

The only person who can’t physically watch me fight is my mother. My wife’s pretty close [to that]. She has to have a couple of wines just to stay relaxed. But my mum has to go to the shops. Can’t even hear it on the TV. 

She’s been banned ever since I fought when I was 17. I had an amateur boxing bout and I fell on my arse. She screamed at the top of her lungs. I was like, “Well, that’s it for my mum.” When I heard that wail, I thought I was dead. 

Training in the US with champions doesn’t affect me too much. I don’t really get starstruck or nervous when you see those big names. I can appreciate what they’ve done and have a lot of respect for them, but I just come here to train hard. It doesn’t matter where I am, I train hard. 

It’s unfortunate that Australian media had the attitude it was a blood sport; guys just going in there to beat each other up. They don’t realise how much thought there is, and how much you have to know. It’s a human form of chess.

I think you need to stay away from superstitions as a fighter. Otherwise it can go wrong for you. Because if something that you normally have to do isn’t there, it’s going to be a bad night.


This week’s highlights…


Cricket: The Ashes – Australia v England, 2nd Test, day 1

Saturday, 2pm (ACST), Adelaide Oval

Rugby league: World Cup, women’s final – Australia v New Zealand

Saturday, 3.45pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Men’s final – Australia v England

Saturday, 7pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Basketball: WNBL – Melbourne Boomers v UC Capitals

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEDT), State Basketball Centre, Melbourne

Soccer: A-League – Central Coast Mariners v Perth Glory

Sunday, 5pm (AEDT), Central Coast Stadium, NSW

W-League – Melbourne City v Adelaide United

Sunday, 5pm (AEDT), C. B. Smith Reserve, Fawkner, Melbourne

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 2, 2017 as "Fists of fate".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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