MMA star Soa ‘the Hulk’ Palelei throws support behind State Govt decision to scrap cage restrictions

Soa Palelei (left) fights Antonio Silva of Brazil in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 190 in 2015. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Soa Palelei (left) fights Antonio Silva of Brazil in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 190 in 2015. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

LOCAL mixed martial arts (MMA) star Soa Palelei says his sport of choice will be safer after a ban is lifted on fenced safety enclosures.

The State Government, acting on a pre-election promise, announced this morning it would scrap restrictions on octagon “cages”, paving the way for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events to be staged in Perth.

With MMA athletes in WA currently competing in modified boxing rings, Palelei said the change would make the sport safer.

“There will be people against the octagon but MMA isn’t a banned sport,” he said.

“It’s unsafe as it is and this will make it safer for competitors.”

The South Lake resident, who fought in a number of high profile MMA organisation including the UFC between 2002 and 2015, said the fenced enclosure would stop athletes falling out of the ring.

“The fencing is a mechanism that keeps competitors in the enclosure and stops them falling on to the ground where they can be seriously injured,” he said.

The new rules will be introduced in stages to allow the grassroots level of the sport to adjust.

Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray said the changes would bring WA into line with the rest of Australia and other jurisdictions around the world.

“MMA isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we want it to take place in the safest environment possible,” he said.

“The last thing we want to do is drive MMA underground.

“It makes no sense to continue with a ban that is only good for putting athletes at risk.

“MMA is already legal and taking place across Perth at a grassroots level, but athletes and promoters have been left frustrated that they can’t use the standard safety equipment for their sport.

“The Combat Sports Commission is at the forefront of safety and regulation of MMA and we will be working closely together to implement these changes.”

Mr Murray said the potential for the high profile UFC to stage an event in Perth could bring millions of tourism dollars to WA.

“We are getting on with the job of diversifying the economy and creating jobs – and we want major tourism events such as the UFC to be a part of that,” he said.

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