Hulk eyes UFC return
PERTH MMA giant Soa ‘The Hulk’ Palelei is considering a return to the octagon at a landmark Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event in February.
The State Government announced last week UFC 221 – a payper-view event – would be staged at Perth Arena on February 11.
Australian middleweight Robert Whittaker is likely to headline the promotion’s Perth debut and could tackle middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Palelei, who has not fought since UFC 190 in 2015, said he was in discussions about a return.
“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 leadup 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.
Local UFC fan Lewis Parkinson, who forks out $60 on payper-view to watch each month, said he was eager to get his hands on tickets.
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 from the Australian Medical Association.
“We know that these events coincide with spikes of violence and anti-social behaviour,” he said.
Soa Palelei in his last UFC fight against Antonio Silva in 2015.