Many MMA fans think the signature headwear Tyson Pedro sports to the Octagon is simply a fishing hat, but the item is profoundly more significant to the Australian light heavyweight.
As he explained to Ariel Helwani on the latest episode of The MMA Hour, Pedro wears the boonie hat in memory of his cousin, Brian, who was killed in 2010 while serving the American Armed Forces in Afghanistan. The hat belonged to Pedro’s cousin, who wore it during his service.
“My cousin who was killed in Afghanistan, his Mum sent me his boonie cap and that’s the hat that I wear out. People say that it’s a fishing hat, but yeah, that’s his hat. [His mother] sent them to me and my Dad and I walk out to every fight with it,” Pedro explained.
During the episode, Pedro highlighted two tattoos he had inked in memory of his fallen cousin — one on his arm and one on his chest. He explained how he felt he needed to pay homage to his cousin after seeing the impact his passing had on his father.
“My sister was closest with him. I wasn’t as close, but I’m closer with my aunt now,” Pedro said. “My Dad was really close with him, he was like my Dad’s oldest son. It was that it hurt my Dad so much losing him that I felt how much it hurt him. That was a hard time when we heard.”
Pedro highlighted how he feels he is serving a greater purpose than simply fighting when he puts the hat on.
“It’s still pretty surreal. You just feel like you’re doing something with a bigger purpose. That hat goes everywhere with me,” he said.
“A couple of times I’ve worn it out,” he continued. “I wore it to Japan when I went to do a jiu-jitsu competition. There have been a couple of times that I’ve worn it, but just not when I’m walking down the street.”
The UFC had no issues with allowing Pedro to wear the boonie hat.
“I had to ask [UFC] and they said that as long as no brand name was used [it was okay]. I think he’s got his paratroop badge on it, I had to take that off but that was it.”