Ever since his days at Waiakea High School, every day has been leading up to this day for Brad Tavares.
“Growing up I played football, but it always felt like the cool kids were the fighters,” Tavares said at media day for the The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale. “The fighting spirit has always been in my life.
“After I graduated from high school, it’s something I pursued because I loved it. I realized I’m pretty good at this. Here I am all of these years later, and I’ve made it a career, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Riding a four-match winning streak in the octagon, the 30-year-old Tavares has made it. But he can really start to make it Friday in Las Vegas in his headline fight against the much-ballyhooed Israel Adesanya (13-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC). The FS1-televised portion of the card starts at 2 p.m.
Ranked eighth among UFC middleweights, Tavares isn’t buying the odds, he’s a slight underdog, nor the hype surrounding Adesanya, who many feel could be ready to made a quick rise up the mixed martial arts ranks.
“Definitely not (worth the hype),” Tavares said at a media day. “No matter what he does to prepare, no matter what he tells himself – whatever it is that helps him sleep at night, come (Friday), he’s going to have to be in that cage with me and all that talking and all his mental preparation, or lack there of, is not going to help him one way or another. I do find it amusing.”
Tavares is coming off a win against Krzysztof Jotko on April 14, his first victory via stoppage in more than seven years. On that same card, the rangy 6-foot-4 Adesanya beat Marvin Vettori by split decision.
“(I can beat him) however I want too, honestly,” Tavares said. “However I want to. I really do believe that I’m the better fighter here, so wherever this fight goes, I’m winning.”
Adesanya is already on record as saying Tavares makes for an easier stylistic matchup than Vettori. Adesanya is entering only his third UFC fight, but he says is kickboxing record is 75-4, with 29 knockouts.
He also thinks he better than any of the fighters – Caio Magalhães, Elias Theodorou, Thales Leites and Jotko – Tavares has beaten during his recent run.
“Be honest: If not for me, he wouldn’t be here,” Adesanya told the media. “He’s in the red corner because he’s ranked higher or whatever. But rankings is just opinions anyway, so I don’t care about them. He’s only here because of me. I might be blue corner, but I’m the A-side of this.”
Tavares has been waiting for this day for years. He’ll try to settle this war of words the best way he knows how: with a fight.
“As far as MMA goes, he’s fought nobody,” Tavares said. “Outside the UFC, he hasn’t fought anybody. Inside the UFC, no disrespect, he hasn’t fought anybody. He asked for this. He’s going to get it.”