Victoria needs a serious look at Mixed Martial Arts

Clinton-Gale Legalising MMA is a good thing, writes Clinton Gale.

On Sunday February 21st this year Sydney hosted Australia’s first ever visit from American based institution Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as the UFC. Drawing an attendance of 17,831, tickets for the Acer Arena’s show sold out within an hour, making it the second fastest sell out time for a UFC event. The sport known as mixed martial arts (or MMA) is sweeping the world in popularity. UFC President Dana White stated he wishes to bring the event to Australia annually after the highly successful Sydney event, but due to current state regulations Melbourne is unable to host the UFC. 

While the sport of mixed martial arts is permitted within the state, the Victorian Minister for sports James Merlino outlawed the use of cage type apparatus in 2007 for such sporting events. His reason for banning the cage was simply that he felt it didn’t meet community standards. So what is the rationale behind having fights in a cage as opposed to a boxing ring one might ask? Granted, aesthetics play a big part in why organisers would want to use the cage but it’s also for the safety of the fighters. Given the rugby style tackles they perform on each other the boxing ring presents the possibility of falling out or getting tangled in the ropes. In relation to safety it’s also worth noting that MMA fighters suffer less head trauma than boxers.  

To a first time viewer of the sport it may look like a no holds barred, anything goes style of street fight but it actually involves many fighting styles such as boxing, muay thai (kickboxing style from Thailand), wrestling and Brazilian jiu jitsu, just to name a few. And there are over 30 ways for an opponent to commit fouls, for example: strikes to the groin, head kicks to a grounded opponent and heel kicks to the kidney. The referee will also stop the fight if one of the contestants is bleeding excessively. 

Once a more comprehensive analysis is done on the sport rather than reactionary assumptions, it is not unreasonable to ask that the ban on cages be lifted so that Melbourne, Australia’s sporting capital, can host a UFC event in the future. Apart from the obvious economical benefits it would bring to the state it may also (like an invisible hand) guide young males into the gym to learn a martial art which provides them with the physical and mental discipline, which in turn boosts their self esteem and could possibly address the knife carrying epidemic the city is currently facing.  Do a web search and you’ll find many gyms in your area already providing MMA training but in your neighbourhood you’re not seeing people getting choked out or tied up in wrestling holds. I’d say the naysayers are running out of ammunition.

Admittedly this is a violent and often bloody sport which is not to everyone’s taste. But no one is forcing you to watch it just as no one is forcing me to watch Better Homes and Gardens. This is yet another prime example of the Victorian state government’s failure to grasp an issue to its fundamental premise and just spin off some feel good policy for face value instead.

Clinton Gale is a former Liberal Democratic Party candidate and is involved in the Victorian branch of the LDP.