When asked about how he felt after breaking a four-year UFC hiatus, Tyson Pedro gives a heavy sigh.
“It was a long time off, bro,” he told Wide World of Sports.
Pedro came back earlier this year after three separate knee injuries, pulling off an impressive finish over Ike Villanueva via TKO with just seconds remaining in the first round.
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But despite the win, he wanted more.
“As soon as I knocked him out, I was still in this mental zone where I still wanted to hurt someone. I wanted to fight the ref, I wanted to fight everyone – I was still in this ‘kill mode’,” he said.
“There was so much pent up emotion of just wanting to fight. It wasn’t until ‘Return of the Mack’ came on that I got to chill out and I came back to normal Tyson.”
It’s tough for him to put into words how he felt after something that was a part of his life every day for years and years was relegated to the back seat as he embarked on the long road to recovery.
“Afterwards, there was a big flood of emotions, man. I was out the back with my wife and I just crumbled,” he said.
“Everyone telling me not to go back, not to fight, to quit – and me knowing that I was supposed to be there and to prove everyone wrong was just a massive burden lifted off my shoulders.”
And now, four months later – he’s back in the octagon, and on the main card of a pay-per-view at UFC 278 in Utah.
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“For that first fight back it’s like ‘I need to get paid’ but now I’m back to just being able to enjoy the sport,” he said.
A clearly-relaxed Pedro has America’s Harry Hunsucker in his sights, the latter dropping down a weight class after back-to-back losses to Auckland-born Justin Tafa, and Pedro’s best mate Tai Tuivasa.
The pair have enjoyed a great relationship both in and out of the gym – their beer company, Drink West, launching earlier this year to a positive reception.
Business is, in a word, booming.
“When we started this we were taking the piss – it’s still surreal to be honest,” Pedro said.
“For something like this to come into fruition, and really show people that you can do something like this, I’m really proud of both of us, and our team, and where it’s going.”
Their brewery in Penrith – which will not only manufacture beer but also provide a bar space for punters – should be ready in October or November. And without getting into specifics, Pedro said the business will be growing further by the end of the year – making sure to praise the work of everyone else behind the scenes.
“I hope everyone understands it’s not two FOBs running the beer company – we’ve got an awesome team running all of this, making sure it’s all flowing while we focus on fighting.”
Pedro’s preparation has been spot on, culminating with a trip to New Zealand’s City Kickboxing – which boasts champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski among its clientele.
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While he’s trained at the famed Auckland school in the past, this was his first full fight camp there, which he described as both mentally and physically draining.
“It was so good to be a student again, and the upskill was enormous,” he said.
“The stuff that they find, just the basics and fundamentals – one thing that stressed me out was distance. They did something with my distancing, which pretty much means my distancing has been shit for my whole career,” he laughed.
“That was a cool thing for them to pick up, but also means I’ve been doing it wrong my whole life.
“The hardest thing was probably keeping the weight on – my dietician had me eating two pizzas, burgers, everything – so that’s not a bad training camp if you ask me!”
All that’s left now is to continue his positive return to the sport with another win.
“I’m so pumped, I live for this shit – we’re the modern day gladiators and getting to do it in front of the people is what it’s for, that’s why I fight.”
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