SYDNEY, Australia -- Sport can be short on characters these days, largely due the increased celebrity scrutiny and proliferation of social media. But there are still a few individuals across the globe willing to speak their mind and retain a sense of humour.
On Sunday, Australia may have just witnessed the lift-off of one such character after Tai Tuivasa thrilled his western Sydney fanbase with a flying knee knock-out of Rashad Coulter at UFC Fight Night Sydney.
With the clock winding down at the back end of an even first round, Tuivasa rocked Coulter with a couple of shots to the head before pouncing on his opportunity and unleashing the left knee that finished the fight with 25 second left before the first bell.
The crowd at Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena erupted as one, before Tuivasa threw his hands skyward in victory and mopped up the cheers of the parochial home fans.
"Sydney west stand the f--- up," Tuivasa shouted when interviewed post fight. The expletive again sending the crowd delirious.
Having had to wait for his UFC debut for more than a year after he was forced to undergo knee surgery, Tuivasa was never going to miss this moment on home soil.
But before he got down to the serious business on Sunday, Tuivasa stayed true to his "Aussie larrikin" persona, and did exactly what he told ESPN he would in a one-on-one interview on Friday, in walking out to another hilarious song selection.
Going for Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" or some gangster rap is not Tuivasa's style. Nope, this time the Australian opted for Vanessa Carlton's "A thousand Miles".
Just as he said post-fight, "you don't know what Bam Bam's gonna do".
As he awaited the official decision, Tuivasa was handed an Aboriginal flag which he carried proudly throughout the post-fight formalities. With boxing and former rugby league star Anthony Mundine seemingly coming to the end of his sporting career, Tuivasa could pick up the baton as the poster-boy for Indigenous athletes.
"It's massive, there's not even an Aboriginal flag on top of the Harbour Bridge," he said. "So for me to carry that here, on the world stage and have a bit of recognition, means a lot to me."
Whether Tuivasa chooses to go down the Indigenous activism path or adopt Mundine's more antagonistic approach, remains to be seen. But his popularity will surely sky-rocket after this victory in Sydney and his laid back approach to a sport that requires immense focus and an ingrained, natural ferocity.
And given he was a rugby league player of talent, at one time signed by NRL club Sydney Roosters, interest in his career going forward should spread beyond that of solely Mixed Martial Arts fans.
"Yeah, I love a good blue, that's for sure," Tuivasa said when asked if he'd found his natural sporting pursuit.
As for the loudest roar of the day, that, as Tuivasa says, was always a foregone conclusion. "This is my home town, this is my city, so I was expecting that and I think he was expecting that as well," Tuivasa said. "This is my home, this is my country and I hope I get a crowd like that every time I get to perform here."
Unleash more performances like the one he delivered on Sunday, and Tuivasa will have Australian fans on their feet for many years to come. He may just fire Vanessa Carlton back up the charts, too.