We’ve all seen the tagline, “The return of ‘The Hulk,’” but the fact of the matter is that it’s not really a return at all. He never really went anywhere. Soa Palelei was still fighting, still grinding out, still training #ALLDAYEVERYDAY (as he likes to say) and still doing what he loves to do. It was just on a different stage.

Aug. 31 isn’t about Palelei proving himself to fans. He’s already done that with his work ethic and willingness to take any fight that he is offered. He now has a new test in front of him in UFC debutant Nikita Krylov, who has been just as dominant on the independent circuit as “The Hulk.” This showing inside the Octagon is set to be the most important one for Palelei to date.

“For me, it’s not really going to be about putting in a good show. That comes anyway,” Palelei explained in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “It’s going to be about getting the win and being confident that no matter where the fight goes I will be comfortable. If it’s standing, I know I’ve got what it takes, and I know that on the ground I can also win it. I just want to get the first win out of the way so we can continue moving forward.”

Palelei (Facebook)

Palelei’s first fight since resigning with the UFC was slated to be on the UFC 161 card against Stipe Miocic. When injury struck the card and Miocic was re-matched with Roy Nelson, it left Palelei without a fight, and it has meant that leading into his UFC 164 bout, he hasn’t seen action inside the cage for over eight months. After competing every couple of months for the past two years, that’s a long time to sit on the sidelines.

“It was a little disappointing to train so hard to fight someone and then have it taken away,” he admitted. “I respect the UFC’s decision though, and they need to make the best decision for the show. It was still good to be involved in the event though. I still had to weigh in and everything, and it was good to go over there [to Winnipeg] and watch the fights.”

In the past, it has been inferred that Palelei has had a hard time with cutting weight to make the heavyweight limit. Each time, however, he has proved his doubters wrong and come in on the mark. Although in some cases it was tough, he was still there and on weight. Preparation has been the key to his upcoming UFC 164 fight against Krylov.

“I’ve been working really hard on my conditioning because I know that when I am conditioned I am good to go,” he said. “My weight is pretty good now, and that last five kilos [11 pounds] I’ll be able to cut in my sleep [laughs].

“I’m going in there with the assumption that it’s going to be 15 minutes of hard work, and it’s just another fight. Being a little bit younger than me, that could work for or against him. You never know what is going to happen in there, so you have to be prepared for anything—and that’s exactly the attitude that I am going into the fight with.”

The age gap between Palelei and Krylov is 14 years, and it’s not something that Palelei is taking for granted. The two have almost had the same amount of professional fights, and, as it has been shown time and time again in mixed martial arts, age is just a number. As the adage goes, anything can happen inside the cage.

Palelei (Twitter)

“I know that he’s in the UFC for a reason, so I am definitely not taking him lightly,” Palelei admitted. “[UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva sees something in him, otherwise he wouldn’t be in the UFC. I don’t think that his age makes any difference, and for me it’s another fight that I have to work hard on. I’m really excited to jump back in there, do my thing and show the world what I can really do.”

On Aug. 31, the stage may be different for Palelei, but it’s still set out the same. It’s still a fight and it’s still a chance to show what he has worked on since his last professional loss, which extends to almost three years ago. When it’s said that UFC 164 will mark “The return of ‘The Hulk'” just remember: He never really went anywhere. He was just on a small vacation from his true home in the UFC, and when that cage door closes, he will be more than ready to show just that.

Soa would like to thank his sponsors: Mackboots, South Crossfit, My Urban Swagga, Skinx, Muscle Meals, Innovative Hair Loss Solutions, Adida Combat Sports by Jols, Exquisite Dentistry, Osborne Park Chrysler, Jeep & Dodge, iMINCO and TKL Holdings. He would also like to thank Paradigm Sports Management, Nidia & her marketing team, his family, his training partners and coaches at Hulk MMA and, most importantly, the fans who have supported him along the way. Follow Palelei on Twitter: @soathehulk

Top Photo: Soa Palelei (Facebook)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.