In sports, whether a stick and ball sport or a battle waged inside a fighting circle we applaud excellent performances regardless or origin or race, but it’s just amplified when it’s a sporting member of your nation flying your Countries flag.
Nothing will be more proof of this than the Olympics that are just around the corner, as fans will cheer their countrymen to victory while clamoring over sports they haven’t paid attention to for the past four years.
In combat sports it’s no different, this sports star rose massively in Japan becoming one of the hottest things in Japanese pop culture that was piggybacked from professional-wrestler-turned-fighter Kazushi Sakuraba conquering the Gracie family and avenging what Nobuhiko Takada failed to do years prior.
Not to mention, today Brazil is the hottest market for the Ultimate Fighting Championship with millions of people tuning in to watch their national heroes fight at ridiculous hours and thousands of partisan audience members packing arenas on each visit, largely because four UFC champions fly the Brazilian flag high.
In Australia, we have failed to find our national hero – Fighters like George Sotiropoulos, Kyle Noke, James Te Huna and now Hector Lombard have shown promise but haven’t broken through the mold to be the top of their divisions.
Soa Palelei might be that home-town hero that we are looking for, standing 6-foot-4 and 280-pounds the Australian-born Polynesian fighter is one of the most imposing heavyweights you will come across.
Fighting out of Perth, Australia he has been around the block a few times, training in hand-to-hand combat for over fifteen years and has currently racked up an eight-fight winning streak in his home Country.
Last time he fought was this past May in Sydney, Australia for Cage Fighting Championships, the leading MMA organization down under when he met K-1 and Pride veteran Bob Sapp who got a lot of media attention following this fight because of an interview he conducted on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour.
In his interview he all but stated that he didn’t put in the time in the gym and that he was doing the rounds on what media and fans alike have dubbed the ‘Bob Sapp Retirement World Tour’.
“I don’t know and I can’t comment on what fighters do or don’t do in the gym, I know every fight I expect all my opponents to be ready and I go in there and give 150% and leave it all in the cage so I just went out there and did my job and that was to make sure I didn’t get stuck underneath his 150-kilograms” he stated.
Last week the news broke that “The Hulk” was the latest addition to the ONE FC 5 event that goes down in Manila, Philippines on August 31 meeting former UFC heavyweight king Andrei Arlovski.
“I got a few fights on the table from a few different organizations that wanted me to sign with and when they contacted me about fighting Andrei Arlovski I thought ‘hell yeah man’,”
he continued “Andrei Arlovski is a former UFC champ so it’ll be a good fight, he’s tough and if I can get one over him that’ll be good for my career and help me get back to the UFC.” He told MMASucka.com
While Arlovski at 33-years-of-age might not be the same caliber of fighter that Achilles locked Tim Sylvia to win the UFC crown but he is still a dangerous, hard-hitting opponent who has collected a pair of victories since his exile from Strikeforce.
“He is a tough dude, he’s got good stand-up, he’s got some ground game but he’s mostly stand-up so I’ve got good stand-up as well, the last couple of years I’ve been working on my kickboxing and I don’t see him throwing harder than Mark Hunt but then again I see him coming for three, five minute rounds non-stop but if I play my game I should win and be a really good fight”
The stakes for this fight got raised significantly this week, while doing the press tour down under to promote the forthcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter and the full-time relationship with media conglomerate Foxtel he spoke on Australia’s top-ranked heavyweight.
“Dude, if I get one more tweet about this guy, everyone and their mother tweets me about this guy,” he contines “If he beats him [Arlovski] he’ll definitely be on Joe’s radar”
One of the reasons Palelei has such a large following in Australia and why so many fans are pushing for his UFC return is because he was one of the first fighters to really grasp the power of social media as he always keeps in touch with his fans dubbed the #HulkGladiators.
“Twitter and social media is really important, connecting with your fans and keeping my name on everyone’s lips is very important – A lot of fighters don’t do that and there are fighters that fight in the UFC but people don’t know who they are because they don’t advertise themselves properly,”
He continued “My advices to the fighters, start promoting yourself, get a website, talk to fans on twitter, that’s the only way you’re going to get known and when they know you they’re gonna want to come see you fight, buy your shirts and pay to see you because at the end of the day, it’s the fan that makes all this.”
Palelei has remained active in recent times, racking up the names on his win tally, but if he exits the Smart Araneta Coliseum on August 31 with another victory to his credit he might be tangling with the UFC’s best for their Brisbane debut in December.
Follow @justinfauxmma on Twitter and keep up with the latest news by following @MMASucka on Twitter and on Facebook