The pain behind the power

The pain behind the power

EVEN at the height of his mixed martial arts success, Soa Palelei often felt little joy.

EVEN at the height of his mixed martial arts success, Soa Palelei often felt little joy.

Retreating to his hotel room after a victory, he said his emotions would come crashing back to earth and his thoughts would turn dark again.

“Just before the fight, there’s so much media and a build up,” he said.

“Then after the fight, all the weight comes off the shoulders and I’d feel sick.

“It’s great to have such a high when you win.

“But then you go back to the hotel and you’re sitting back when there’s no one around and you get depressed.

“Some of the thoughts I got back then went from the high of winning to ending my life. No more pain.”

Palelei, or ‘The Hulk’ as he known across the globe, carved out a successful MMA career between 2002 and 2015 competing in a number of high profile organisations, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

There was also success at state and national levels, together with a stint playing professional rugby in England.

At 193cm tall and weighing in at 120kg, the South Lake resident appears nothing but strong.

But his muscles mask what was a difficult childhood.

At just 11, after returning from Tonga where he worked with family on a farm, he was subjected to daily beatings from his uncle.

To escape the punishment he turned to living on the streets.

Sport, and MMA in particular, was his way out, the octagon his sanctuary.

“When I was in the cage I used to laugh,” he said.

“I used to think what are you gonna do that I haven’t already had done to me?’

“It used to amp me up. Let’s go, bring it on. I’ve just got so much anger inside me.

“But then the ref pulls me off and I just change. It’s a weird thing.”

Palelei has sought professional help for depression and said a new perspective had helped significantly.

He knows it is something he will have to manage.

Chatting to the Gazette ahead of the release of his book Face Your Fears, he hoped others could take something from his experience.

“It wasn’t really therapeutic writing the book because it’s talking about my past. It wasn’t easy,” he said.

“I kept putting it off.

“But hopefully people can take something from it and know there is help if they need.”

Face Your Fears will be launched on June 27.

Palelei will speak at the Men In Black Ball at Pan Pacific Perth on June 18.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, call beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.