The 35-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has come a long way since his first stint in the UFC in 2007, where he was stopped in the third round by Eddie Sanchez before being released by the company.
Since that fight, Palelei has lost just twice to bring his record to 18-3, with one of those losses at the hands of two-time Olympic wrestler and former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who is undefeated in MMA and ranked third in the world.
Palelei said he had worked hard to stay motivated since his UFC debut, and had knocked back substantial offers from rival promoters Bellator and ONE FC.
‘Everyone has ups and downs, but if you stick to that dream you will get there,’ he said.
Palelei said that after six years away from the UFC, he hoped his comeback could inspire others to work as hard as he has.
‘I tell people that I only sleep six hours a night and they say ‘Soa, you should get eight or nine hours sleep’,’ he said. ‘I say to those people, I suggest you sleep quicker.
‘If you sacrifice and you work hard, you can make it. You need to sacrifice and keep on pushing, and that’s true not just for fighters but also for everyone in life.
‘You can have your down days and you can get in bad situations but all you need to do is work as hard as you can in any situation and if you sacrifice that little bit, you will get the results you want.’
Palelei, who is an ambassador for Telethon and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, hopes to extend his eight-fight winning streak to nine when he takes on Stipe Miocic at UFC 161 on June 15 in Canada.