• Fri. Mar 10th, 2023

UFC 278: Tyson Pedro life story, Hollywood, stabbed by his dad, Pedro vs Hunsucker, Usman vs Edwards

ByGurinderbir Singh

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John Pedro, with a shrug, says he never meant to stab his son in the chest.

Knock him unconscious?

Absolutely, there were reasons for that.

Both times.

Same deal when he broke the boy’s nose sparring, or left him picking two front teeth from a blue canvas ring floor.

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On which occasion, those watching on inside Pedro’s western Sydney gym begged for the fight to be stopped.

Yet the old man, he wasn’t having it.

“Nah, f… off,” John snapped back, right before demanding his boy hand said teeth to a cornerman.

“There’s still 80 seconds of this round to go”.

So spitting blood, and toothless, Tyson Pedro fought on.

Same as earlier, around 15, he had looked down to see that large knife the old man carried everywhere – often, with heavier artillery – not simply stuck into his chest, but wedged deep.

“Although that one was an accident,” John cackles now, seated this particular Friday inside a Sydney cafe beside the son who has since lifted himself, his chest scar, all of it into one of Australia’s most recognised UFC careers.

“It was supposed to be a trick.”

“Was a trick all right,” Tyson shoots back. “A magic trick.

“Come watch this knife disappear into my kid’s chest.”

Which is some zinger, sure.

Yet not enough to cause his father even the slightest pause.

No, John Pedro, you should know, is a man raised from 1970s California, among the warring Bloods and Crips.

A heavily tattooed hood rat – his words, not ours — who didn’t simply grow up within family gatherings where everyone carried, but would himself stay strapped through his first two years after emigrating to Australia.

A fella, put simply, who is no stranger to defending himself.

So the stabbing of his son?

“I had this trick where I’d throw the knife out,” John says, motioning away from his body with the right hand. “Then catch it again with my left.

“And mostly, it worked. But that one day, I guess my left hand was a little slow …”

Which to be fair, was a rarity for this old school karate and Japanese jiu jitsu guy who, now 56, boasts seven black belts.

One of which, he earned only after having Harley-Davidson spokes pierced through each forearm.

The first part of a test which also involved attaching concrete blocks to each spoke — which Pedro then lifted so his instructors, with sledgehammers, could smash them like piñatas.

But the knife thing, he admits, was worse again.

“Because like any father who has just stabbed his son, I was shitting myself,” he grins.

“Still, men are given chest plates for a reason, right?

“So I told him to walk it off.”

“No,” Tyson interjects, “you blamed me.

“I was crying, knife in my chest, and you said it was my fault because I started the game.

“But I knew the truth … you were just worried about what mum would say”.

“Absolutely, I was,” dad agrees. “Because your mother has always babied you”.

At which point, the pair again disappear into one of those slanging matches only the greatest of mates can know.

The continuation of a morning, too, that started before dawn, when it was sweat uniting them.

With father and son arriving at Ethos Performance gym, Silverwater around 6am – and on a morning when boxer George Kambosos was also there – then together, training as part of ongoing preparations for UFC 278.

Set for Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday week, 30-year-old Tyson will face American light heavyweight Harry Hunsucker.

A bout that with John, as always, in his corner, will not only continue the greatest injury comeback in UFC history, but a family story incredible enough to have Hollywood producers, plural, wanting to buy it.

“There’s been a couple, yeah,” John reveals. “I’ve had a filmmaker from England reach out, too.”

Which is because more than almost killing his son, John Pedro is the man who gave life to Australia’s MMA scene.

A heavy-set American Samoan who, back in the 80s, and while himself breaking out as an Arizona State linebacker, was called to the bedside of a dying father who had one last request – please go complete your Mormon mission.

So to Australia, strapped, John Pedro came.

“And spoke about God being a protector,” he cackles, “while considering myself the middle man”.

While his time with the church, unsurprisingly, was brief, Pedro would soon meet Tyson’s mum, begin training himself and eventually, with Tony Bonello, launch King of the Cage – a pioneering MMA promotions where fighters were loose, rules looser and on one famed occasion, every ring girl a stripper.

Then there was the event at Panthers where, only hours before fight one, local law makers decided cage fighting was illegal.

Still, athletes were booked.

And tables paid for.

So after dismantling the cage walls, Pedro and some dozen mates stood around the ring perimeter – which was a metre off the ground – using rugby league bump pads to keep the fighters from tumbling off.

“Which was great until one guy got kayoed, knocked right out of the ring,” John recalls. “We thought he was dead.”

Which, thankfully, he wasn’t.

Still, it hardly helped the cause.

“So for a long time it was me, the hood rat, arguing with lawyers, politicians, Sports Ministers,” he says. “I was alone, threatened with arrest, and with everyone saying MMA would never get off the ground.”

Which seems unthinkable today with the UFC worth $4 billion, and Australia boasting superstars like Robert Whittaker, Alexander Volkanovski, even cult favourite Tai Tuivasa – who, coincidentally, has a son with John’s daughter Brierley.

All of which those Hollywood types want to tell.

Yet every time, the Pedro boys have knocked them back. Unconvinced people would understand the uniqueness of their story.

“And maybe they still won’t,” Tyson shrugs.

But still for the first time in real detail, the pair are now speaking anyway.

“Because that time I knocked my son’s teeth out, he fought,” John says.

“He was dazed, bloodied, there were guys at the gym wanting to jump in and save him.

“But that’s never happened in my world.

“And why I told the boys to f… off.

“The life I’ve known, nobody comes to save you.

“That’s not real.

“And I wanted my son to know that when it came time to get up in life, to really get up, nobody was going to be there for him. Which eventually, is exactly how it happened.”

A fighter from the day he was born scowling, and with one hand balled into a tiny fist – “so it had to be Tyson,” dad says, referencing the famed US heavyweight – Pedro’s professional career also started as if fired from a cannon.

After winning his first four appearances on the local fight scene – and all within a round – the hyped Penrith striker was then catapulted straight into the UFC where, immediately, he won two more.

Again, both in round one.

The pick of which was a stunning TKO stoppage of Scotsman Paul Craig, who now five years on sits inside the division’s top 10.

But Pedro?

With everyone suddenly screaming Next Big Thing, he would go lose three of his next four — the last of which not only saw him stopped by Brazilian legend Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, but suffer a busted ACL.

Which initially, was supposed to out him a year.

Instead, Tyson missed nearly four.

Lost not only to medical misdiagnosis, or eventually three major knee surgeries, but a comeback so seemingly impossible that even family were urging retirement.

“So things got dark,” he concedes.

But this, remember, this is the same fighter whose two front teeth are veneers.

A fella who rather than quit, chose to switch surgeons, drive delivery vans, start a beer label, then a restaurant, run triathlons, rehab, read fight psychology, spar Paul Gallen, hike Machu Picchu, rehab some more, train in Thailand, travel to Dubai and, most wonderfully, witness the birth of his first child – daughter, Giselle.

Together with wife Rosie – who not only supported and backed her husband, but taught him to invest what little money they had – Pedro not only recovered, but in January this year signed on for a hyped UFC comeback.

Then just 14 weeks out from fight day, he fell.

Big time.

“I had a nervous breakdown,” Tyson reveals. “I’ve never spoken about this to anyone outside close family but the pressure got too much.

“I’d had four years worrying about my knee, about money, about providing for my wife and daughter … and now, finally, here was the time where I had to win.

“So one day I just started drinking, and that was it. I disappeared on a bender for days.”

And at some point, you reckon, the fighter would have got himself out.

Same as he always had.

But with Tyson uncontactable through two, three, then four days, Rosie wasn’t taking that chance.

So the man she called to save her husband?

It was the same bloke who bashed out his teeth.

“And I can still remember Rosie phoning, saying ‘Tyson needs you’,” recounts John, who was working a New Zealand construction site when the call came in February.

“So that was it.

“I left everything and flew straight here.”

Says Tyson: “Dad found me, opened the door and said ‘son, let’s work’.

“That was it.

“The moment everything changed”.

Of course, we now know that after 1239 days – or the longest injury layoff in UFC history – Pedro would not simply return to that Las Vegas Octagon, but defeat American Ike Villanueva via first round KO.

Then next morning, head straight to the UFC Performance Institute for training.

“First time I’ve never partied after a win,” he says.

Which is also why the fighter is now happy to discuss those veneers, the chest scar, even explain how after 15 years training, sparring, fighting, the only man to ever knock him cold is dad.

“Because while I know, for sure, some people will have a problem with it,” he says, “it’s why I’m here”.

Same deal so much of that upbringing where his old man once front flipped into a fire pit. Or during employment as a jail warder, drove the pair about in an armoured truck, hurling gas grenades as they went.

Aged nine when his parents split, little Tyson would regularly run the 14km from mum’s Cranebrook home to St Marys to be with dad.

Same as in his teens, the pair would live together in a Kingswood apartment.

“Although it wasn’t so much an apartment as a shed,” Tyson laughs. “It was so small I couldn’t stand upright inside and we had to share a bed.”

Yet what John wouldn’t share with his boy, at least initially, was a place in the fight game.

“Because my reputation, it was for training the worst of the worst,” he says. “When you got out of prison, you trained with me.

“Gangsters, bikies … I knew the fight game could take everything from a man.

“That was why when Tyson wanted to fight, I had to test him.

“See if he had the balls.

“If he would quit.

“But Tyson, he never quit.

“He is that warrior.

“When everything was taken from him, he still fought.

“It’s who he is.”

At which point, the son makes another gag about those missing teeth.

“That was love,” dad says.

“And why,” the fighter shoots back, “I kept thinking ‘dad, can you please stop loving me so much’.”

“What about the times I cuddled you as a baby,” John continues, turning now completely towards his boy. “You never share those stories.

“When I would cry you off to sleep …”

“You’d cry?” the fighter laughs.

“I’d cry just looking at you,” dad confirms. “Thought you were perfect.

“Obviously back then, I didn’t realise all your faults.”

Yet soon after, during a rare pause, John will lean right over the table, drop his voice, and nod towards his boy.

“This is all I got,” he says.

“Out of all the things against me, against my life, this kid is my legacy.

“All my kids are.

“And to be in Tyson’s corner at UFC fights, to see him under those bright lights, man, he glows.

“As a father, I’m so proud.

“It’s almost like I want to hoist Simba up into the air …”

“What?” Tyson interjects, cackling hysterically. “Are you calling yourself Mufassa?

“Actually, no, no, you mean the witchdoctor monkey … you’re calling yourself Rafiki.”

“And now son, you’ve ruined my story,” dad shrugs. “Was going to be a good one, too.”

Originally published as ‘Dad stabbed me’: Why Hollywood wants to tell Aussie UFC fighter Tyson Pedro’s incredible life story

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