UFC 298: Justin Tafa out of heavyweight clash, Junior Tafa offers to replace him

UFC 298: Justin Tafa out of heavyweight clash, Junior Tafa offers to replace him


Junior Tafa has sensationally offered to step in on just one day’s notice to replace his older brother Justin at UFC 298, after Justin was forced out on late notice due to a knee injury.

Justin, who was scheduled to face Marcos Rogerio de Lima on the prelim card, injured his right knee just two days before he was due to weigh in.

But, in a remarkable set of circumstances, Junior smashed out a quick set of 10 push-ups in the hotel lobby and claimed it was enough of a training camp to step into the Octagon with de Lima on fight day.

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Moments later, Junior was on the phone talking to the UFC brass, and was whisked away for medicals and to sign a fight contract.

As the rest of the fighters on the card weighed in on Friday morning (LA time), a dejected Justin – wearing a Toa Samoa bucket hat – could barely walk through the fighter hotel, and confirmed to this masthead that he was out of the fight with an injured right knee.

“My very last session of camp, the very last grappling session, my knee just gave out somehow,” he said.

“I came hobbling into the media session right after, and I thought it would come right, but it got worse.

“I had to do the smart thing (and pull out). There’s no use me going out there and looking like a piece of concrete. I couldn’t bear any weight.”

Tafa said he gave his knee every chance of coming right before he was left with no option but to withdraw.

“I tried to get treatment on it after, but I think I got the wrong kind of treatment,” he said. “I went and got some needling done.

“I think it inflamed it more. I’m pretty sure it could be a tear in my muscle in my knee, and into my hammy.

“Last night, we went to hit pads, and I thought I was going to fall over, so we had to make a call as a team.”

While Justin cast a forlorn figure as he waited for a car to pick him up and take him back to his Air BnB, Junior hit the deck, did 10 push-ups, and said he was ready to go.

“That’s how I would like my training camps to be, 10 push-ups every month,” he said. “I’m not born for training camps, I’m born to fight.

“I started my kickboxing career on these late notice fights. They expected a dumb coconut to come in, but I came in and knocked the lights out of them.”

After his 10 push-up training, Junior was given 90 minutes to make weight, but claimed he was already under the 266-pound weight limit.

Junior already has a fight scheduled against Karl Williams on March 24, but is confident he can compete in both.

Or, he said, if Justin is fit again, his older bro can come back against Williams next month.

In another wild twist of fate, the brothers were grappling with one another when Justin’s injury occurred.

“I didn’t do it, I swear to God,” Junior said. “I heard a pop in his leg. I didn’t want to tell anyone, I was the last one to do the grappling rounds and I didn’t want the blame on me.

“I didn’t wear a shirt, I had nothing to soak up the sweat and all the sweat went straight to the mat.

“It wasn’t my fault.”


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