MMA gym supports trainer’s family through cancer fight

Hammerhead Mixed Martial Arts is fundraising for Dunedin man Tai Tautua (right) by selling hangi...
Hammerhead Mixed Martial Arts is fundraising for Dunedin man Tai Tautua (right) by selling hangi meals today. Mr Tautua is seen here with his wife Wanita Tautua, a coach at the gym, and their children (back from left) Teniva, 11, Tarquin, 14, and Maiata, 3, yesterday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A Dunedin mixed martial arts gym is helping a member of its community prepare for the fight of his life against leukemia.

Hammerhead MMA has sold about 200 hangi meals to fundraise for Tai Tautua who began his battle with acute myeloid leukemia in November last year.

Hammerhead head coach Matt Toa said Mr Tautua’s wife Wanita had been a coach in the MMA community for more than 35 years and it was time to give back to her family.

"It just feels good to be able to do something back for Tai’s family because not only is Wanita giving us time, it’s time away from the family."

Mr Toa said every year the gym ran a "bucketlist" programme where they gave regular people the opportunity to train like professional MMA athletes.

This included MMA training as well as taking part in media obligations and doing something for the community.

Mr Toa said normally the community work would include fundraising for organisations such as Life Matters or I am Hope, but this year’s cause was a lot closer to home.

Mrs Tautua said she felt quite emotional and it was "a heart-stopping feeling" to find out the gym was planning on supporting her family.

"The bucketlist people, they don’t know me from a bar of soap, so it’s massive for them to support me."

Mr Tautua said the support was overwhelming and he was grateful that his family had a support network beyond himself.

"I don’t think I ever thought about myself, I was thinking about my family making sure they will be all right.

"Just to know that my wife and my family have a lot of support is gonna help me a little bit because I couldn’t do anything."

Mr Tautua had completed four weeks of chemotherapy and was due for a bone marrow biopsy on Monday.

The gym would also be selling firewood and auctioning a signed glove from former UFC champion Conor McGregor to contribute to the fundraising as well.