Chael Sonnen has addressed the appeal of Tai Tuivasa as an MMA superstar. The former UFC middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger also discussed how Tuivasa’s stardom is holding him back from fighting for the UFC heavyweight title.
Earlier this month, Tai Tuivasa was defeated via third-round KO by former interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane. Regardless, fellow Australian Alexander Volkanovski believes ‘Bam Bam’ is just one marquee win away from a title shot.
In an edition of Beyond the Fight, Chael Sonnen agreed with Volkanovski’s comments but emphasized that Tuivasa still has a long way to go before ascending to the skill level needed to win the title.
Sonnen insinuated that despite the 29-year-old Tuivasa establishing himself as the most popular UFC heavyweight star today, the UFC wouldn’t book him to face the division’s best fighter. He indicated that Tuivasa probably wouldn’t be matched up with UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a title fight because ‘Bam Bam’ would likely lose:
“He [Tuivasa] would not have gotten a title fight if he would’ve beaten Ciryl. Why? Because he’s popular, but he’s got a lot of room [for improvement]. You’re not looking to get your most popular guy beat. Now, that may not be conscious. That might be subconscious. But you’re not looking to get your biggest star beat; you’re just not.”
Sonnen believes that had Tai Tuivasa beaten Ciryl Gane, the UFC would’ve booked him in another main event matchup but not in a title fight. He also suggested that the Gane loss was a blessing in disguise for Tuivasa, as the latter would improve his skills before fighting for the title. The loss might have even shortened Tuivasa’s path to a title fight, per ‘The Bad Guy’.
Watch Chael Sonnen discuss the topic at 3:42 in the video below:
Is a heavyweight title shot on the horizon for Tai Tuivasa in 2023?
The defeat against Ciryl Gane brought Tuivasa’s impressive five-fight win streak to a crashing halt. Heading into his fight against ‘Bon Gamin,’ many believed that a win would surely earn Tuivasa a shot at UFC gold.
Intriguingly, reigning heavyweight kingpin Francis Ngannou is on an injury hiatus, possibly until 2023. Besides, Ngannou has yet to re-sign with the UFC, and there is no word on the rumored Stipe Miocic vs. Jon Jones interim title matchup.
Ciryl Gane’s next matchup, too, remains uncertain at the moment. Considering the uncertainty around who’ll fight for the heavyweight title next, Tai Tuivasa could earn a shot at the belt in 2023 with a big win in his next outing.