Soa 'The Hulk' Palelei: 'Cage' fighter banned from kids hospital

Story highlights

  • Cage fighter Soa Palelei banned from meeting sick kids
  • 'The Hulk' "deeply hurt" by snub after raising over $43,000 for charity

(CNN)A "cage" fighter who raised thousands of dollars for sick children has been told by an Australian hospital he's not welcome to visit them.

This was the unusual dilemma Mixed Martial arts (MMA) fighter Soa "The Hulk" Palelei found himself in recently, after being banned from meeting with children at Princess Margaret Hospital, in Western Australia.
Palelei competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), a MMA competition drawing on the disciplines of boxing, freestyle wrestling, judo, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and tae kwon do, among others.
    Created in the U.S. in 1993, the UFC now hosts around 40 live events around the world annually, and is particularly popular in Brazil, Canada, and Japan. Bouts can take place in boxing rings or in "the Octagon" -- an eight-sided "cage."
    MMA is legal in Western Australia but the state government has banned "cage" contests.
    Along with retired rugby player Matt Fuller, Palelei has already raised over $43,000 (AUS$61,000) for an upcoming charity challenge where they will workout 24 hours non-stop on an arm grinder -- a machine much like a bicycle for the arms.
    The pair won't be able to stop for a toilet break, having to keep one hand on the grinder at all times, as part of the fundraising event on October 17 for Telethon -- whose beneficiaries include the Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth.
    However, Palelei was told not to join Fuller on a photoshoot at the hospital, amid concerns revolving the level of violence in his sport.

    Visit Matt Fuller & I at 246 Rokeby Rd Subiaco tonight 6.30pm to 6.30am Sat in prep #24hrgrind for Telethon if you can't...

    Posted by Soa "The Hulk" Palelei on Friday, October 2, 2015
    Palelei told CNN he was "deeply hurt" by the hospital's decision to ban him from the photoshoot, adding: "I'm 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 am about to embark on a 24-hour challenge solely to raise funds that will directly benefit those children who I was not allowed to meet," added Palelei, who is also an ambassador for the Make A Wish Foundation, a charity which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.
    The 38-year-old is a UFC three-times world champion, with a black belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. He is currently ranked 24th in the world in the UFC's heavyweight division.
    But the hospital stood by its decision.
    "Following the significant media coverage of controversy surrounding UFC and 'cage' fighting, which is currently banned in Western Australia, a decision was made by the Princess Margaret Hospital Executive that it would not be appropriate to have a representative of the sport visit the hospital," a spokesperson from the health service said.
    "Princess Margaret Hospital has a duty of care to its patients, their families and staff. With many people in the community having very strong views about this particular sport, due to its perceived level of violence, executive staff felt this was the best decision at the time."
    In 2013, Western Australia banned a multimillion dollar sporting event due to its use of the "cage," and it was moved to the state of Queensland instead.
    Soa "The Hulk" Palelei pictured during the UFC Fight Night event in Brisbane, Queensland, 2013.
    Western Australian Sport and Recreation Minister, Mia Davies, said: "The state government does not support the use of a fenced enclosure for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contests, believing it is not in the best interests of the wider community to endorse or encourage participation of fighting in a 'cage.'
    "MMA contests are allowed in Western Australia in a boxing ring."
    A similar ban on the use of "cages" was lifted in the Australian state of Victoria earlier this year, with the first such contest now set to be held in November.
    Whether Western Australia will follow suit, remains to be seen.
    The UFC's website says "the Octagon's" walls and padded surfaces protect fighters from "falling or getting thrown out."