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Friday, 06/28/2013, 11:08 am

EXCLUSIVE (Part 1) | UFC 164′s Soa Palelei Discusses Road to UFC Return | BJPenn.com Radio

By JAKE CHASTAIN

| UFC Heavyweight Soa Palelei was invited onto this week’s episode of BJPenn.com RADIO. Palelei is the current owner of an eight-fight winning streak and is slated to make his return to the UFC octagon on August 31st at UFC 164 in Milwaukee. Palelei was slated to make his return against Stipe Miocic at the recent UFC 161 event in Canada but was replaced by Roy Nelson due to circumstances beyond his control. Palelei was cool enough to talk about that situation, his upcoming bout at UFC 164, and his feelings toward his return to the octagon in his interview with Pedro and George on BJPenn.com Radio.

Palelei, although he is a fairly new name among the mainstream MMA conversations, is a huge star in his home of Australia. He holds a record of 18-3 and hasn’t fought in the UFC since 2007. Since that one fight stint in the octagon Soa “The Hulk” Palelei has gone 10-1, with his only loss during that span coming from Daniel Cormier back in 2010. When talking about his popularity and his wide reception from fans Palelei humbly stated, “You know what, the people that make us fighters popular is the people like you and the fans. It’s all about the fans.”

Palelei was then asked to comment on his popularity in Australia and his massive twitter following. Palelei explained that he appreciates the fans and he avidly interacts with them. That’s the main difference in his popularity jumping above that of others. Throughout the interview Soa was very adamant about showing his appreciation for the fans and their support. He stated that showing them love back is huge.

 “You have to give back to the fans,” he explained. “As a fighter, my advice to other fighters is that you have to promote yourself.”

Palelei will enter UFC 164 after being removed from UFC 161 in his fight with Stipe Miocic. When the main event for the card was scrapped and the co-main of Henderson vs. Evans was moved to the main event the UFC decided to thrown in Roy Nelson against Stipe to add ‘star-power’ to the show. That left Palelei without a fight.

The organization acted quickly, though, and Soa now finds himself facing the undefeated young-gun and UFC new-comer, Nikita Krylov, in Milwaukee. Palelei is optimistic about the way things turned out for him and is pleased with how the company handled the situation and he’s stoked about his upcoming fight with Krylov.

“I’m excited. I was pretty disappointed I didn’t get to fight at 161 but I respect the UFC’s decisions because they’re always looking out for the fans and making the right judgments for the card,” Palelei said. “So you know, I’m happy with my shot at 164 with Nikita [Krylov].”

“When you focus on training for one certain person and then you get called that they had to reshuffle the card, you know, that’s life. You have these kinds of situations with fights.”

Although Palelei now has to train for an entirely different opponent he still feels he’s making the right progressions in training and is still confident in his mindset. He explained, “Now, I’m refocused on this fight.”

“I’m happy to be pushed back to 164. It gives me more time to train and, the thing is, I haven’t stopped training, anyway.” He continued, “I respect the UFC’s decision.”

Many fighters would have voiced their displeasure with being shuffled around and having to shift around their fight camps. Palelei doesn’t feel that it’s going to affect him much and is quietly, optimistically, still anticipating his octagon return.

He then talked about his growth as a fighter since his first UFC fight back in 2007. He attributed much of his success since his last UFC appearance over six years ago to his teammates, his work ethic, and his positive outlook on life. He explained, “It’s my whole training, my whole perception of life. Just enjoy it and surround yourself with good people.”

He continued, “After that Daniel Cormier fight I was sitting in the back changing room and I was like, ‘I’m never going to lose again.’” Palelei, as farfetched as that statement may be, has made it true thus far, rattling off eight-consecutive victories. “After that I’ve gone on an eight-fight winning streak and I just don’t want to lose. It’s just the worst thing ever,” he said.

He was then asked to comment on if he has the urge to fight Cormier again and get back that loss that he dropped to the former Strikeforce HW Grand Prix Champ. Sao laughed, stated that he would like to avenge the loss but then went on saying, “Not now. But it’s like Daniel Cornier is a machine. If you’re gonna fight that guy you want to be in a camp where you’re getting annihilated every single day because Daniel Cormier comes out and goes for three rounds, flat out.”

Palelei understands that the level that Cormier brings is hard to handle for a lot of fighters. He continued explaining that he wants to fight the best in the world and feels that his skills can match up with anyone’s but there would have to be a lot of work put in for a camp against a guy like DC. It wasn’t fear to fight him that kept him reluctant to jump at the opportunity to fight Cormier again but rather, Sao stated, “I respect him.”

Soa then talked with our boys Pedro and George about his upcoming bout against the undefeated Nikita Krylov. Although Krylov is not the big name that Stipe Miocic would have been, Palelei knows that any fight, especially in the big leagues of the UFC, is a dangerous fight. He stated, “Anyone can lose at anytime.”

This will be a big test for Palelei and he knows that he’ll need to enter the fight prepared if he wants to put on a good showing for the fans.

However, it’s hard to work on an opponent that you don’t have a lot of background on. Krylov is 14-0 but it’s fairly difficult to find much information on him. Much like Palelei himself, Krylov has made his rounds in several different fight promotions and has never really found a lasting home. But Palelei says that his camp and coaches are doing a good job breaking his opponent down. “We’ll work on a lot of his weaknesses,” he said. “I’ll pressure him and we’ll see where it ends up.”

Soa Palelei will look for his first UFC victory on August 31st at UFC 164 in Milwaukee. We thank “The Hulk” for his time on BJPenn.com RADIO and we wish him the best of luck in his upcoming bout with Nikita Krylov.

To listen to the entire interview with Sao Palelei on BJPenn.com Radio click here and stay posted to BJPenn.com for the second installment of this exclusive interview.

-Jake Chastain

@jchastain45

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