Australian heavyweight Soa Palelei, also known as “The Hulk” retired from professional mixed martial arts in October 2015. His career included two runs in the UFC and a brief stint in Pride Fighting Championship. His last fight was a TKO loss to Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva at UFC 190. Palelei recently caught up with Tony Reid of MyMMANews.com for a quick chat.
Tony Reid – If you could choose one fight from your career that every MMA fan should see, which fight would you choose and why?
Soa Palelei – “I’d say my last fight with Pat Barry. I felt great going into the fight and after my first fight back in the UFC against Nikita Krylov with my rib injury I felt like I had to prove to everyone what ‘The Hulk’ can do when I’m not injured. So check it out UFC Fight Night 33 Soa ‘The Hulk’ vs. Pat Barry.”
Tony Reid – You always seem to be going hard in the gym. What was the most memorable moment from any training session you have been involved in?
Soa Palelei – “I take training very seriously as it’s part of my job. Being a professional athlete you need to be in shape for fights and also look the part. I’ve been blessed to have been able to train and train with some pretty famous people such as Leonardo Dicaprio when he was filming the Great Gatsby in Sydney. Ewan McGregor, whom I did a movie with in Australia called Son Of A Gun after filming myself Ewan and some of the other guys (Matt Nable, Brenton Thwaite) would go to the gym and work out and do some sparring. It was a laugh.”
Tony Reid – You are known for having big power on the feet and on the ground but who has the heaviest hands of anybody you have fought?
Soa Palelei – “That would most definitely have to be Mark Hunt. I’ve never fought Mark but we have trained on several occasions leading up to my fight with Pat Barry for UFC Fight Night 33. I did some of my training camp over in New Zealand with Mark and let’s just say when Mark get you in the face you’re going to sleep” (Laughs).
Tony Reid – If you could fight anyone outside the world of MMA, who would you choose to pick a fight with and why?
Soa Palelei – “This is an easy one but do I have to pick one? Because it’s out of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. Ronald McDonald for not sharing his Big Mac sauce and Colonel Sanders for not sponsoring ‘The Hulk'” (Laughs).
Tony Reid – Who are the people that inspire you most, personally and professionally?
Soa Palelei – “Personally I would have to say my daughters. These girls are so dedicated to their swimming, if they can get out of bed at 4:30 a.m., five days a week to be at swimming at 5 a.m. swim then get ready for school and do it all over again in the afternoon, there’s no reason why I can’t get out of bed myself to get to training.”
Tony Reid – If you weren’t a professional mixed martial artist what would you be doing for a living right now?
Soa Palelei – “I’ll always be involved with fitness, that’s something that’s been a part of me for quite some time. Owning a gym, having said that, I have ventured into acting and currently have movies under my belt with potentials in the pipeline, so that would be my main priority for sure, being in front of the camera is something I’m very comfortable with and would pursue it.”
Tony Reid – Being 6’4” and over 250lbs. the nickname “The Hulk” is fitting. Do you remember exactly when you got it and who gave it to you?
Soa Palelei – “It was quite some time ago. I remember sitting down with my then manager talking about the fights and he said you need a fight name… We were throwing some names out but none were fitting. I said something like the Tongan Torpedo and he laughed and said no way you need something that ties in with you and your fighting style, being known for my ground and pound he said ‘The Hulk’ because you just smash things just like Hulk Smash. So that was what we went with and it’s been fitting I believe. I’m calm and collected but when it comes to training and my job I smash it. ‘The Hulk’ comes out.”
Tony Reid – You have been in the sport for a long time now, so what is the most amazing thing you have seen in regards to the growth of MMA since the beginning of your career?
Soa Palelei – “The growth. It’s huge now. The sport continues to grow and it’s mainstream now everyone knows what the UFC and MMA are. The fact that it’s shown worldwide and the diversity of the audience is awesome to see. I’ve been around for a long time. I remember traveling all around the world sleeping in gyms in Brazil, Japan, Hawaii just to be able to get different training and knowledge.”
Tony Reid – You post may motivational quotes and phrases. Which is the one that you cherish most?
Soa Palelei – “Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember it’s all small stuff. Life is short and you’re not guaranteed tomorrow, if you want something work hard for it or as ‘The Hulk’ calls is hustle for it. No one is going to give you anything if you want something you need to work for it yourself and not let small petty things or people stop you, just keep hustling all day every day.”
Tony Reid – What is the one thing you would want the world to know about “The Hulk”?
Soa Palelei – “There’s more than what meets the eye. I’m very driven and whatever I want in life I’m going to work my ass off to get it or achieve it. ‘The Hulk’ is here to stay in many regards my brand is growing and there are big things coming for ‘The Hulk’ so stay tuned and watch this website soathehulk.com.”