Sometimes when things go drastically wrong, it can be a good thing. In the realm of mixed martial arts, it’s not exactly ideal to have things go wrong when competing inside the cage. However, every now and again it can take an in-fight experience to lead to a revelation.

In his return to the Octagon at UFC 164, Soa Palelei drew fellow debutant Nikita Krylov. The resulting fight saw a lot of people critical at Palelei’s performance. He looked unusually sluggish and failed to make the first impression that many had expected. After the fight, Palelei revealed that he had battled through the three rounds with a broken rib and promised something to remember the next time that he entered the famed Octagon.

“I was just in agony with every breath I took. I felt like my rib was going to pop out of my skin and I just couldn’t do anything I wanted to do. I could have pulled out of the fight, but I’d worked so hard to get there,” Palelei admitted. “I’d worked my ass off to get into the UFC and I didn’t want to let down all the people that had spent money to see me fight. I just felt that I owed it to so many people to go in there. What can you do, though? It’s done now, and I’m ready to go in there again and show what I can really do.”

Palelei (top) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Palelei (top) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

In the lead-up to his second UFC outing, Palelei took his camp over to New Zealand to train alongside fellow Fight Night 33 combatant and good friend Mark Hunt. It was a chance for him to change up his usual training regimen.

“I went over there to train with Mark, and it was just a great camp,” Palelei said. “We got some good training and there were some great guys in the camp. A lot of them weren’t even fighters. We just went in and we trained all day, every day, and I really enjoyed getting over there.

“I used to get in a bit of trouble when I was younger. I used my training to keep me away from the trouble, and it kept me busy. I started off with wrestling and then decided to travel around the world because I wanted to train everywhere that I could. I’m kinda glad I did that, too. I’ve trained with some of the best people in the world, and I think that’s made me a better fighter for sure.”

Earlier in the year, Palelei went out to broaden his horizons when he secured a role in the upcoming Australian film Son of a Gun, which also stars Ewan McGregor. It’s a far cry from his training as a mixed martial artist, but the experience offered a change of pace and an insight on what a daily grind looks like for those who star on the big screen.

“That was something really different,” Palelei exclaimed. “Those guys work hard, and it was just interesting to watch people at the top of their game working just as hard as I do in my game. It was a whole new experience and something that I’d like to do a little bit more.”

Much like in his UFC 164 bout, Palelei shares the stage this weekend with several fellow countrymen. Over the past two years, Palelei has worked towards representing his country on the world stage and doing so on Australian soil. He looks forward to the chance to fight in front of a crowd of passionate Australian fans.

Palelei (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Palelei (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

“It’s great to [be] fighting alongside all these guys on the card,” Palelei admitted. “It’s awesome that we all get to do it, and I am sure that the hometown support is going to be crazy. I’ve worked my ass off to get into the UFC, so to be able to fight in Australia is just something else. There’s gonna be a lot of people coming out to support me, so I know I need to get the win for them too.”

This weekend, Palelei squares off against Pat Barry, who is arguably the 36-year-old’s toughest opponent to date. With his nine-fight winning streak on the line, Palelei wants to reintroduce the world to the same “Hulk” that had entertained fans on his path to the UFC.

“Everyone is tough, and when you go in there you just never know,” he admitted. “I’ve just gotta go in there and I’ve gotta bring it. I’ve gotta go in 100 percent. I know that he works hard, so I’ve gotta be at my best too. He’s gonna go in there looking for the finish. I know we can both finish fights, so it’s gonna be about who gets in first.”

Whilst things didn’t exactly go to plan in his return to the UFC, you can be sure that Palelei isn’t going to let history repeat itself. “The Hulk” that fans all around the world have come to know and love will be on display once again in Brisbane.

Soa would like to thank Mackboots, Southern Crossfit, Limousine Excursions, SkinX, My Urban Swagga, Osbourne Park Chrysler Dodge and Jeep, Starr Special Events, Jaco, Booster Fight Gear, iMINCO, Super Stars & Legends, Muscle Meals Direct, Innovative Hair Loss Solutions, Ice2Heat, Nuju Organic Coconut Water, Exquisite Dentistry, Jols Martial Arts, Adidas, Bony Acai, Tropical Rejuvenation, Gobsmacked Mouthguards and Everything MMA. Follow Palelei on Twitter: @soathehulk

Top Photo: Soa Palelei (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

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.