“I tried to commit suicide last night—I won't be doing that again. I nearly f*cking died.”—Justin Faux
In case you haven’t already heard, the UFC’s plan to hold an upcoming event in Melbourne, Australia, was cancelled this week due to one small, very significant factor—the Octagon.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it would seem that the local government only allows MMA events to be held inside of a boxing ring, and not inside of a cage, with no exceptions, not even for the UFC.
At first glance, this seems like a very odd and hypocritical rule, one that unfortunately prevents the UFC from holding any events in the Melbourne area. I found this to be a tad bit confusing however, especially when you consider that the UFC has already held other events in Australia. So then, I had to wonder, “what’s the deal with Melbourne?”
For quick and accurate answers to these seemingly difficult questions, I decided to speak directly to a colleague of mine, Justin Faux, who currently writes for MMASucka.com and is one of the original journalists to come out of the Australian MMA scene. He’s also a pretty funny dude.
James Ryan: Hey Justin, sorry to hear about your failed suicide attempt. Hang in there, buddy! You just gotta keep at it! [Laughs] But on a serious note, what's the deal with the cage debate in Melbourne? What have you heard?
Justin Faux: The deal with having no cage in combat sports in Victoria, is that back in 2007, a promoter came into Melbourne and began promoting caged MMA events, and promoted them very similarly to how all of the original UFC's were done. This then caused the Brumby Government Sports Minister to put forward the 2007 Caged Combat Sports Bill, which now outlaws any and all forms of combat sports performed within a cage, but it's fine to do so in a ring.
You have to take into consideration that the UFC wasn't on pay-per-view at this point in Australia or getting any TV coverage, so it was only myself and several others who were considered MMA fans and actually followed the UFC.
JR: When you say MMA fans, are you referring to journalists in your area who were covering the sport?
JF: No, I mean legitimate fans. In 2007, the UFC hadn't been on pay-per-view since UFC 31, and nobody really knew about it besides a small segment of the community. At that time, I still wasn't writing about the sport. That came the next year.
JR: Interesting. So do you know the exact issue with the cage? Why would a ring be any different? Is it all about image?
JF: Yes, I think it was an issue of the cage setting a bad image, like that of a dogfight, in the eyes of the uneducated. Plus, the Promoter was promoting MMA in such a way by saying “eight men enter, one man leaves” on the posters, so that couldn't have helped.
JR: Sounds very, Mad Max—Beyond ThunderDome. [Laughs] So then, if the Government had such a problem with MMA, why didn’t they just outlaw the sport altogether?
JF: The only reason why they didn't outlaw the entire sport in the State was because they would’ve had to have passed another bill to exclude boxing and muay-thai events, so they just banned the cage instead.
JR: I see. Well, considering that the UFC has already been to Australia, is this then just a regional decision? Don’t you think that the UFC would have known about this rule before even trying to book the date or the venue? It just seems like an odd afterthought. What do you think?
JF: The UFC has now been to Sydney twice, and is currently planning to go to Brisbane by the year’s end.
Yeah, the UFC apparently sent people down to Melbourne to speak with people here almost a year before booking the venue in Sydney, to try and get Melbourne free, because that's where they really want to be. To draw a comparison, Melbourne is the equivalent of what Toronto was to Canada in terms of where they really want to be, but due to the regulation, they’re not allowed to.
I was in Melbourne the other day because some fighters were in town and I arranged a few interviews with them, and there was a turnout of about 4,000 people just for an autograph session. People are eating it up here.
JR: Sounds like it. Is there anything about this whole situation that you would want for MMA fans to know, so that they don’t have a negative impression of MMA in Australia? What needs to happen in order to change the current perception and the law?
JF: I think what needs to change is that the general public needs a better education of the sport. Most people still see mixed martial arts as mindless violence. People need to understand that the guys who compete in MMA are all high-level athletes who are well-versed in every martial art.
I mean, if Jon Jones wasn't a mixed martial artist, he'd probably be tearing it up in the NFL. People need to realize that these guys aren't the same people you'd find by picking up a BumFights DVD.
The biggest misconception about MMA to my fellow countrymen, from what I've heard in conversations, is this thought that “anything goes” and that anyone can just mash-up someone’s testicles in a fight, Joe Son—Keith Hackney style, with no repercussions. It's just not like that anymore.
JR: Thanks buddy. Well said. And best of luck.
JF: Thanks James. And if you ever need any help, just give me a shout.
JR: Will do. Cheers!
By the sounds of it, the laws from back in 2007 are in desperate need of a little re-examination. I am confident that once the powers that be do that, we will see an immediate change in the current policy. Until then, MMA fans will just need to stay patient.
Also, there would definitely need to be professional guidelines set in place to prevent smaller organizations from ever projecting MMA as a Blood Sport again, thus ruining MMA for those who actually know better.