James Te Huna, who fights Steve Bosse this weekend on the main card of UFC Fight Night: Hunt vs Mir, is looking forward to showing fans the new Te Huna. Or more accurately, reintroducing the old Te Huna, known for his heavy hands and aggression.
As his UFC career gained momentum, the New Zealander frequently changed training partners to evolve as a fighter. But now, after close to two years since his last Octagon appearance, Te Huna has gone back to his roots ahead of his middleweight fight at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
“Towards the end of last year I started doing seminars in New Zealand,” he said. “In my seminars, I was talking about my journey and the career that I had and the places that I traveled to train, and one key thing that I talked about was growing and developing your own style from the team of guys, the environment that you’re training in. That’s something that I went away from. I developed my own unique style that made me dangerous, and I went away from that trying to improve on other weaknesses. It’s always good to do that, but then I left my original game behind me and then I had nothing. The new stuff that I learned, I started gradually getting better at that but I was losing my original style at the same time. So it was just a real big learning curve. The main thing was I had time to rest, I thought things through and let the body heal up, and came back when the timing was right.”
After three straight losses to elite competitors in Glover Teixeira, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Nate Marquadt, the 34-year-old considered giving up the sport entirely. But after resting mentally and healing several injuries, including a serious shoulder dislocation, the hunger has come back.
“Yeah (I considered retiring); straight after the last fight I was pretty much done,” Te Huna said. “I didn’t really have a good time training for the fight. You’ve gotta really be wanting to train and wanting to fight, and I didn’t want to do neither. I was just copping injury after injury and it just wasn’t good. I just didn’t want it. I didn’t pull out of the fight because I don’t do that. I gave what I had in the bank and it wasn’t much. After the last fight, I did consider calling it quits. I just left it at that and over time everything healed, and I got offered to fight on the Brisbane card a couple of months ago and I was in a different place, so I took the opportunity.”
Te Huna’s training has now come full circle, and he is reaping the benefits physically and psychologically. He feels at home, and hasn’t been plagued by injuries as he has been in the past.
“I’m just enjoying training and I’m not getting hurt because I’m doing things that I like and growing every day with my team. I don’t feel lonely anymore like the past couple of years, because fighting is a lonely sport traveling (to different gyms), meeting different guys, training all over the place. Now I’ve got my own team, we’re all correcting each other, giving each other compliments and growing every single day, which is really great. (I am) Taking all the right steps, added a hell of a lot more recovery sessions because of my age, and I’ve ticked all the right boxes for this fight.”
While the course of Te Huna’s professional MMA career has seen some of his original training partners move on, the next generation of Te Huna’s training family has taken their place.
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“(I’m training with) My good mate Stevie Ashby, he’s been there since my very first fight; Richard Sergeant, my jiu-jitsu instructor, he’s pretty tight with me there, he’s been with me for seven or eight years. My last fight I went away from him.” Te Huna said. “Funnily enough, the original guys I used to train with years ago, they’ve moved on and their sons are in their twenties and they’re little guns now (laughs). Back when I was training with their fathers, they were at the gym every day in the kids’ classes (laughs). My original training partners have moved on and I’m training with the kids. They’re young, athletic, really talented and respectful, and it just feels like a family.”
Returning to the Octagon after a long break can be a shock to the system. Te Huna has prepared himself mentally for any sensory overload as the New Zealand-born Australian, who says he represents both countries, fights in front of a home crowd.
“To get rid of that ring rust I’m putting in rounds and doing a lot of mental preparation and visual preparation. Going over walking to the cage, getting used to the crowd, the canvas up against your feet, stuff like that.”
In former hockey player Steve Bosse of Canada, Te Huna faces a hard-hitting striker with eight wins by knockout
“I’ve only watched two minutes of one fight; I haven’t really seen a great deal of him. I learned that he was an ice hockey player, so he’s probably equivalent to an NRL player a footy player here (in Australia). He’ll be a hard bloke. From what I saw, he likes to bang and strike and he doesn’t take a backwards step. I see him in me (and) myself in him. He’s a similar fighter.”
Arguably, Te Huna’s fight against Bosse is a must win. And however it happens, he is looking to do exactly that.
“I’m going out there to win, same as everyone else. I don’t know what it’s gonna be, but just winning, that’s it.”