What secret do you keep from your loved ones?

Perhaps you, like Superman, don a red cape to attend to those in need? Or perhaps you have the voice of an angel and can sing like you are the next Grammy award-winning artist?

In the age of social media and YouTube, it can be hard for people to keep secrets. It just takes one click of a button for the world to have access to your innermost intimate secrets. Some people embrace the age of social media, especially mixed martial arts fighters who at the touch of a keyboard can sign a fight.

Not all fighters embrace it, though. Some even avoid it. In his first foray into mixed martial arts, Sam Kei was one of those people. It wasn’t because he thought he knew better. Instead, it was because he had something to hide.

“The only person that knew I was [competing in MMA] was my brother,” Kei revealed in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “And I only really told him because he kept bugging me about why I was buying all the gear and everything [laughs]. On Facebook and stuff, we’d be able to keep it from my mum and stuff by blocking her on certain statuses. It was hard to do though. No one had a clue what was going on until my fight against Chris Lokteff was posted online and then everyone found out. I didn’t really wanna tell my parents at first, but they support me now because it’s something that I enjoy.”

Much like Hale Vaa’sa, Kei’s opponent on Oct. 26, Kei once had what looked like a promising career in Rugby League ahead of him. It would have been easy to rest up, take a year off and then get right back into playing one of Australia’s favorite pastimes. However, during some downtime, Kei had found a new sport and had fallen in love with it.

“In 2011, I was playing Toyota Cup for Manly, and I done my knee,” he said. “While I was recovering from that, I put on a lot of weight. I was getting up to around 120 kilos [264.5 pounds] and I just thought, ‘Fuck man, I need to lose some weight.’ There was a gym just behind my house, so I went there and just did some Boxfit to get in shape. While I was there, I saw Felise Leniu there running a kickboxing and MMA class and I was watching him, and after one of the classes I went up to him and was like, ‘Can you teach me how to do a one-two?’ And after I started doing some training there, I kinda got hooked.”

His aspirations weren’t too far out of reach. All that Kei wanted to do was win an amateur title fight. It made sense, since he hadn’t been fighting for all that long. Setting goals at a realistic level was going to allow him to build enough confidence to continue to develop in the sport. Kei got his wish of a title fight, but it wasn’t quite what he had first envisioned.

“Felise asked me if I wanted to fight for a title and I said I would for sure. I didn’t even know it was a pro fight until I saw myself on the poster,” he admitted with a laugh. “I asked Felise what was going on, and he just said, ‘Don’t worry, bro, I believe in you.’ I had two weeks to cut 13 kilos [28.6 pounds], so it was gonna be hard.”

It was just his second professional bout, and Kei was going up against a tough opponent in Lokteff, who was undefeated and trains at one of Australia’s best gyms in Integrated MMA. Kei had lost his pro debut just two months earlier, and not many expected him to win in his sophomore effort. However, he managed to walk away with the Nitro light heavyweight title around his waist.

“It was a good fight,” he said. “I went in there with nothing to lose at all. I sacrificed a lot to do that fight and, for me, I just really wanted to win it because of that. I was living off like a handful of almonds for my food during the day, and it was hard. I sacrificed a lot, so I was happy with how it turned out.”

After losing his title to Joe Muir at the last Nitro show, Kei has high hopes of one day being able to reclaim his gold. He has a tough test at hand, though, in Vaa’sa, who has fought some of the best fighters on the Australian circuit.

“I’m really keen to get back up [to Queensland], and I am keen to get my belt back,” he exclaimed. “It’s gonna be a good fight, and Hale just been fighting some tough opponents. I’m happy to be fighting on there again, and I am excited for what the fight is gonna bring.”

Kei may have led a life of secrecy through his first few mixed martial arts bouts, but his desire to win back his Nitro light heavyweight title is something that he is not keeping secret at all. It all starts Oct. 26. A win over Vaa’sa on that day will put him one step closer to being back in the title picture.

Kei would like to thank Luke Boyd, Arthur Reitzer and Suman Moktarian as well as Matt from MMA Factory, Australian Top Team & Jiu Jitsu and Temple Dogz. Follow Nitro on Twitter: @NitroMMA

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.