Words by: Darcie Boelen
Professional UFC Fighter, Make-A-Wish ambassador, and Telethon fundraiser Soa “The Hulk” Palelei was banned from visiting sick children at Princess Margaret Hospital on Thursday.
Palelei and former WA rugby league star Matt Fuller were supposed to attend the hospital to promote their Telethon fundraising efforts, but hospital management told the #14 ranked UFC heavyweight he wasn’t welcome as cage fighting is not legal in WA.
In a post on his Facebook page earlier today, Soa wrote that he was “deeply hurt” that he wasn’t allowed to visit PMH, and that they didn’t take into account the other areas of his life, including his charity work, his acting career, and his family life.
“The decision from PMH to deem I am not an appropriate representative (of sport) to visit the kids, seems very politically motivated, not taking into consideration at all that I am also a person with a life outside of UFC with a son who suffers from absence epilepsy and not to mention all the charitable work I have done over the years.
“I feel the decision from PMH was discriminatory and judgemental, yet I know that what I am doing will benefit the children and that is where my thought and motivation still lies.”
PMH made a statement earlier today regarding the photoshoot for Telethon and said it had been rescheduled for Matt Fuller but not for Palelei.
“Following the significant media coverage of controversy surrounding UFC fighting, which is currently banned in Western Australia, a decision was made by the PMH executive that it would not be appropriate to have a representative of the sport visit the hospital,” said the hospital spokeswoman.
The funds raised by Palelei and Fuller would have gone to the Telethon Trust, which directly benefits Princess Margaret Hospital.
In an interview with 6PR, Palelei said he was dumbfounded: “You want me to do a twenty-four hour grind, put my body on the line for you, raise money for you guys, but you won’t let me see the kids? It’s disappointing.”
Earlier this week Premier Colin Barnett described cage fighting as “violent and aggressive,” and that the WA government won’t allow the UFC to come to WA.
“I think the vast majority of people would agree with me.”
There has been a ban on cage fighting in WA since 2013, and is the only place in the world cage fighting is explicitly banned. WA is the only state in Australia which explicitly bans the sport since Victoria made it legal last year. The UFC has had to move events from Perth to other states in the past because of the ban. Technically mixed martial arts is legal in the state, but the cages are not.
The UFC uses a specific cage style known as the Octagon, which they say is safer than a traditional boxing ring as it prevents fighters from falling from the arena floor, but also creates a space which accommodates a wide range of fighting styles.
Palelei has previously commented on the safety of the Octagon and said it all comes down to education: “In a ring, it’s unsafe for MMA. You can fall out, I’ve seen guys fall out in events in Melbourne, it’s dangerous and it’s a long way to fall. Having the Octagon stops you from falling out.
“There’s no link to street violence, that’s caused by drugs and alcohol. If you’re going to blame it on MMA blame it on kickboxing and boxing as well.”
Soa and Matt Fuller will be attempting their twenty-four hour grind at the Perth Convention centre on the 17th and 18th of October. You can find more information about the fundraiser on their Everyday Hero page.