Soa “The Hulk” Palelei (21-4) is easily one of the more likable fighters in the UFC. It goes beyond the awesome nickname. It has a lot to do with his fighting spirit, his sense of humor, along with his inspirational tweets and blog posts.
Palelei got his first shot at the UFC back at UFC 79 against Eddie Sanchez in 2007 and dropped that decision. The loss spurred Palelei to win 13 of his next 14 fights with 11 of them being first round finishes. The lone loss was to Daniel Cormier during that stretch. His last fight was a tough loss to a hot prospect named Jared Rosholt (11-1). He now finds himself ready to start another winning streak. His opponent for his November 7th fight at UFC Fight Night 55, Daniel Omielanczuk is also coming off a loss to Rosholt. Both fighters are hungry after their losses.
Palelei is poised to start another run. He has not suffered consecutive losses in his career and is working hard to make sure that does not start now. Even with his busy schedule he was still gracious enough to take some time and answer some questions for us as he gets ready to face Omielanczuk.
You are training with AKA Thailand now, what originally drew you to them? What benefits do you gain by having an experienced UFC veteran like Mike Swick working with you?
I decided to go to Phuket and when I got there I went straight in to see Mike. Not only are the facilities insane, I knew the training would be so and I was right, I can honestly say that this has been the best training camp I’ve had. I get my ass kicked every session but yet I keep going back for more and I don’t want to leave.
You have learned to grow through your losses and always followed them with a win. What have you learned from your latest loss? Has blogging helped you deal with a tough situation like a loss?
I’ve been blogging for 4 years, it helps me get my thoughts out and my fans look forward to it. I wasn’t going to sit there and feel sorry for myself, I had to pick myself up and get back on the grind. I’ve made some changes and I’m ready to do work.
In one of your blog posts you talk about change being inevitable. How have you changed and evolved within the sport? How has MMA changed you and your life? How has the MMA scene grown and changed over the years? Where do you see it going?
We all have to change, it’s part of evolution. I embrace it and don’t fight it. I do things my way and if I feel something isn’t right I change it. I needed to change somethings on my team and make people aware that this is my career and at the end of the day it is what I want. I’ve grown as a fighter. I feel like I’m a much better fighter now than when I was say 27 I’m better and wiser now. I see the sport getting bigger and I look forward to being a part of it.
Do you like to watch a lot of footage of your opponent and game plan heavily for them? Or do you prefer to go in and just focus on you and your game looking to impose your will on them and let the fight evolve?
My team does that and then they apply it to my training, I leave it up to them, I just focus on smashing my training and getting it done.
The first round finishes are always exciting and nice. However, is there more satisfaction in a fight like the one with Nikita Krylov where you dug deep in the third round to get the finish?
Hey, if I can get it in the first round that’s awesome. The thing is we never know how it’s going to pan out until you get in there and in the action, I can go the 3 rounds, no dramas, but if I see an opening I’m taking that opening.
Can you talk a little about how you pushed through the fatigue, showing tremendous heart in that battle.
I just didn’t want to give up. I had worked my butt off to get back into the UFC and I had so many people fly out to see me so I wasn’t about to let anyone down, I just kept digging in there and then I had to finish it.
What was more difficult for you, the first fight or the first blog post, and why?
All the hard work is done when we get to the fight. The training and the weight cut – that’s the hard part. I love what I do and I get in there ready to do my job. Writing the blogs just comes to me. It’s just my thoughts and me wanting to share them, whether people read them or not, I like to do it, it makes me feel better to get my thoughts out.
Speaking of your writing, congratulations on your new book deal. Did you ever imagine a book in your future when you wrote the first blog post?
Thank you, I’m very happy about it and can’t wait to get the ball rolling, my assistant would at time say we need a book deal. I’d go over certain things that I have endured, some funny stories and some tough ones, and that always came up; ‘You need your own book to share with all your fans,’ I laughed and said ok, do it. And after sometime and discussions we got it. I’m excited to share these stories with whom ever wants to read them and I can’t wait.
Your writing has obviously inspired many fans and helped you connect with them. How has it helped you as fighter if at all?
It feels great to know that people read my blogs and can use it in their lives or just feel better about certain struggles. We’re all the same, we all encounter hardships and it feels great to know that these people look to the blogs and feel like they can make it by reading them.
You are legendary for your work ethic, but everybody has those tough days. How do you find the drive to push through those days?
My kids. If they can get up at 5 a.m. to swim then go to school and swim again in the afternoon, I sure can get my butt outta bed in the morning and get to training. I do it for them to be able to provide a better life for them and be able to give them what they want.
Though you stress and emphasize hard work and pushing through barriers you also point out the importance of not overloading oneself with too much. How do you find that balance in your life?
I just want more, I hate being still, I want to create a legacy that when I’m gone people will know who Soa “The Hulk” is. So if I have to work hard and not be able to relax that’s fine by me, I want to keep busy and work.
What first drew you to fighting? What keeps you in the sport?
It started off with boxing as a young kid to stay out of trouble and the love for the sport grew. I wanted to keep learning more different techniques and I was good at it, so I made it into a profession and I want to keep fighting and one day fight for the gold.
In many ways you are a modern-day Renaissance man; fighter, father, writer. We see you playing guitar in one of your videos, you are a motivator and someone with a great sense of humor. What does the future hold for you after fighting?
I want to continue acting. I’ve done 2 movies thus far, one with Ewan McGregor, and I enjoy that. I’m not going to keep fighting forever, so the acting is something I will pursue but I have a lot of other projects I want to do, The Hulk has many goals.
Your family is obviously very important to you. How has becoming a father changed you over the years as a fighter? With an extremely busy schedule finding time for children can be difficult for parents in this modern age. How do you find a balance in your busy life?
I do what I have to do for work. If not there’s no food on the table, but I know I’m a great father. I absolutely love my kids, they’re my life and when I’m home we make up for the time I’m away. My 2 girls are swimmers so I’m at their swimming comps cheering them on or as they call it embarrassing them, LOL, and with my son we go to wresting events as he loves it. Not a big fan of MMA at this stage but loves wrestling.
Who would you like to thank.
I’d like to thank you for your time, Mike Swick and the guys at AKA Thailand, my sponsors: Mackboots, Southern Crossfit, R9WA, Limousine Excursions, Pier 42 resort and spa, My Urban Swagga, Stunning Smiles, Innovative Hair Loss Solutions, SuperStars and Legends, Lakes Designer Meats, Peaches Fresh Food, Empire Property Solutions, Visi, A.P Concreting and Thinkin IT. My team and lastly but not least “The Hulk” family….
You can follow him on Twitter @soathehulk
cover image via SOATHEHULK
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