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Art of the Shoey: Tai Tuivasa Details His Signature Victory Celebration

How did the popular heavyweight grow to enjoy drinking beer out of a shoe in the Octagon, and why?

First comes the knockout. Then the celebration.

For Tai Tuivasa, a victory means it is time for a shoey, his version of a victory cigar.

The fun begins when Tuivasa climbs up and straddles the top of the Octagon. With adrenaline rushing through his veins, feeding off the energy from the crowd, he holds a beer in one hand and a shoe–typically a sneaker–in the other. He dumps the beer into the shoe and then, to the delight of the paying customers, guzzles the drink.

“It’s the fastest way for me to start getting drunk,” said Tuivasa, who shared that the move is far more common back home in Australia. “We love to party and we love to have fun, and a shoey definitely gets people excited.

“After local shows, I could drink as soon as I got out of the cage. That’s not the case in the UFC, and that’s why I started doing the shoey in the cage.”

Following the moment of euphoria, a wet shoe gets returned to its owner, all while the rise of the UFC’s next emerging star continues. And the shoey will be on full display, in all its glory, if Tuivasa knocks out Derrick Lewis this Saturday at UFC 271.

“That would get the party started,” said Tuivasa (13-3). “It definitely would.”

Tai Tuivasa performs his signature shoey and celebrates after knocking out Greg Hardy at UFC 264. 

Tai Tuivasa performs his signature shoey and celebrates after knocking out Greg Hardy at UFC 264. 

A shoey would certainly add some flavor to the 271 card, but Lewis (26-8, 1 NC) plans on throwing a wet blanket on the celebration. He is an opponent unlike the ones that Tuivasa has faced, and no one from his past–particularly during this current four-fight win streak–compares.

It won’t be Augusto Sakai staring across from Tuivasa. The monstrous figure staring him down won’t be Greg Hardy, or Harry Hunsucker or Stefan Struve. Coming for Tuivasa’s head is Lewis, the UFC’s record holder for knockouts, and he plans on adding another KO to his vast collection.

“Derrick is the knockout king for a reason,” Tuivasa said. “I know he’s going to try to take off my head.”

A bout against Lewis is the exact opportunity Tuivasa has been fighting to attain. Currently ranked No. 11, Tuivasa now has the chance to beat the No. 3-ranked heavyweight in the world. The setting will only add to the scene, as Tuivasa enters hostile territory in Houston, Texas, where the majority of the crowd will favor native son Lewis.

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Tuivasa has looked impressive over the past two years, but he has a history of faltering against upper-echelon opponents. After winning the first nine fights of his career, he lost consecutive fights to Junior dos Santos (TKO), Blagoy Ivanov (unanimous decision), and Sergey Spivak (submission).

“The losses are my biggest learning curve,” Tuivasa said. “They really taught me where to focus. Those losses taught me to become better.”

If he wins on Saturday, Tuivasa will enter a new level of eliteness, possibly even elevating himself into the top five of the division. He vowed not to be overwhelmed by the moment when it comes time to enter the cage.

“I’m a big fan of Derrick,” Tuivasa said. “I’ve grown up watching him. But this is exactly what [my team and I] wanted. This is why we sacrificed all that time away from our families.”

Tai Tuivasa lands hits for a knockout victory against Greg Hardy during UFC 264 at T-Mobile Arena.

Tai Tuivasa lands hits for a knockout victory against Greg Hardy during UFC 264 at T-Mobile Arena.

There will undoubtedly be a shoey on Saturday if Tuivasa pulls off the upset. The only thing he asks is that no foreign substances are added to the drink.

“Someone threw in hot sauce once, and that stunned me,” Tuivasa said. “Halfway through it, I realized there was hot sauce in the shoe and I didn’t like the taste. Otherwise, I’m keen for anything.”

There is a lot of substance behind Tuivasa’s celebration. Once a kid that kept getting into trouble at school, he has earned his success through a devoted work ethic. He continues to reach into his soul to reach new heights in the cage. Win or lose against Lewis, he plans on coming out swinging.

“Never give up, that’s it for me,” Tuivasa said. “I hope every kid out there out getting in trouble in school remembers that. Always chase your dreams. That’s what I’m doing. Lewis is coming for my head, but I’m going to try to do the same. It’s my time to become the new knockout king.

“One of us is getting knocked out. It’s either me or him. And it’s not going to be me.”


More MMA Coverage:

Derrick Lewis' Climb Back into Heavyweight Title Contention Starts Where It Last Ended

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.