Tafa brothers on a Samoan mission
Two Ultimate Fighting Championship (U.F.C.) fighters, representing Samoa on the international stage, have come a long way since their early days and are in Samoa on a mission.
Justin and Junior Tafa with roots in the villages of Mulifanua and Satupa'itea are happy to be back in their homeland to reconnect with family and with the people and also to help them understand that they "fight for Samoa."
The Tafa brothers, who are trained by older brother Gerard Tafa arrived in Samoa on Wednesday morning with their mother, Pouli Amanda Tafa.
As proud Samoans, Justin and Junior told the media on Wednesday that they come from a family of fighters as their grandfather Fuailefau Pati Tafa was a heavyweight boxing champion and his brothers were boxers too.
Born and raised in New Zealand, the Tafa brothers currently reside in Brisbane and proudly represent Samoa in Mixed Martial Arts (M.M.A.) in the international arena.
"We are very proud Samoans, we fight all around the world and we always carry the flag of Samoa. We do our best to make our people proud," Justin Tafa said.
Growing up, Justin remembers watching other Samoan kickboxers on the big screen and wanting to be tough like them.
Asked why they chose M.M.A. and not boxing, as it is more popular among Samoans, Justin responded: "Because we are good at it.
"We are good at knocking people out. It's God's gift to us and we use it to support our families and make our people proud. We love Samoa. We haven't been here for quite some time and we are happy to be back.
"It's always been a dream of ours to be like David Tua. I don't know about here in Samoa but back in New Zealand when he was fighting, even the bus drivers had their ulafala and wore it ahead of his fights and I felt like Samoa stopped whenever David Tua had a fight.
"And we wanted to come back and connect with our people and get a closer relationship with our homeland so when it's our turn to fight, Samoa stops for us."
Justin who is sitting just outside the top 15 in the world U.F.C. ranking emphasised that their visit to Samoa this week is the first of the many trips they will make.
They hope to develop grassroots programmes in Samoa so they can produce the next generation of M.M.A. fighters from Samoa to represent Samoa in the international arena. The Tafa brothers will also be visiting the local gyms and meeting with the M.M.A. community in Samoa.
Expressing the desire to inspire up-and-coming future Samoan M.M.A. fighters, they said while living in Australia and New Zealand, they aspire to make Samoa proud in all they do and to set up programs on the island to grow the sport.
"Our first visit is to make sure that we can connect and that everyone understands who we are and where we are from and from then on, we hope to grow the programme here and build the warriors here for the U.F.C. The dream is to bring U.F.C. to Samoa and hopefully in a few years that can happen and also to have a local Samoan fight in the U.F.C. "
The brothers are also hoping to get support from the Samoa Government so they can implement and introduce the sports locally and named countries that back up their fighters.
"All countries do it, the Russians do that for their fighters, they back their fighters and we hope to see that as there's a lot of Samoans playing the game.
"It's a privilege to represent Samoa and it's something we don't take lightly. We know how tough the Samoan fans are and we got to make sure to go out there and give it our best.
"Another thing we want to do while we are here is to send the message to every young Samoan out there. We didn't start with the best life. We lived a very tough life growing up with not much money.
"But any person can change their future depending on how hard they work and how passionate they stay with whatever they do whether it's sports or schooling. Anyone can change their future it is just a matter of how hard you work and how committed you are to achieving your goals.
"We had a poor upbringing and we have come a long way because we worked and trained hard. This is just the beginning of our journey and we hope to take it to the highest level or to the best that we can."
In August this year, Junior won his first U.F.C. match and earlier this month, Justin knocked out Austen Lane in the first round. Junior has followed in his older brothers' footsteps and their youngest brother Lorman is also a professional fighter.
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