Hulk con­sid­ers smash re­turn

Cockburn Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Bryce Luff

AF­TER tak­ing two years out to fin­ish his book, film movies and tour Aus­tralia as a guest speaker, Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei could be en­ticed back into the oc­tagon af­ter the State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced the Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship would make its Perth de­but in Fe­bru­ary.

SOUTH LAKE MMA gi­ant Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei (pic­tured) is con­sid­er­ing a re­turn to the oc­tagon to com­pete at a land­mark Ul­ti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship (UFC) event in Fe­bru­ary.

The State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced last week UFC 221 – a pay-per­view event – would be staged at Perth Arena on Fe­bru­ary 11.

Aus­tralian mid­dleweight Robert Whit­taker is likely to head­line the the mega pro­mo­tion’s Perth de­but and could tackle freshly minted mid­dleweight cham­pion Ge­orges St-Pierre.

Palelei, who has not fought since UFC 190 in 2015, said he was in dis­cus­sions to see if a re­turn was fea­si­ble.

“I’d love to get on to the card but we’ll have to see what hap­pens,” he said last week.

It is an­tic­i­pated more than 15,000 fans will pack Perth Arena for a card fea­tur­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mixed mar­tial artists.

The fight should pro­vide a mas­sive tourism boost for the State, in­ject­ing $7 mil­lion into the econ­omy and show­ing Perth off to a global au­di­ence of more than 15 mil­lion view­ers.

Tourism Min­is­ter Paul Pa­palia said the de­ci­sion was made pos­si­ble af­ter the State Gov­ern­ment lifted a ban on MMA en­clo­sures – known as ‘cages’ – ear­lier this year.

“Not only will this event be great for tourism and lo­cal jobs, UFC 221 will be em­braced by WA’s own 40,000 reg­is­tered fans – the third big­gest UFC sup­porter base in Aus­tralia,” he said.

“The 56 mil­lion UFC so­cial me­dia fans will also see our State show­cased in the lead- up to the fight – giv­ing Perth and WA un­prece­dented ex­po­sure.”

UFC pres­i­dent Dana White said he was ex­cited his or­gan­i­sa­tion could host an event in Perth.

Spear­wood UFC fan Lewis Parkin­son, who forks out $60 on pay-per-view to watch the trav­el­ling road show each month, said he was ea­ger to get his hands on tick­ets and be­lieved Perth Arena would be packed to the rafters.

He said Whit­taker was the man to mark the mile­stone.

“I think (Whit­taker ver­sus St Pierre) would be a ridicu­lously good first fight to be held here in WA,” he said.

The de­ci­sion did cause some back­lash, with Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion WA pres­i­dent Omar Khor­shid pour­ing cold wa­ter on the news.

Picture: Jon Hew­son­mu­ni­ d455040

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