Thu, Oct 16, 1:25am by Mike Randall
Wait, don’t switch off!
Especially if you’re a UFC fan living in Victoria.
The state has an archaic ban on organised fighting in cages that prevents the UFC from staging events in Melbourne.
The greatest sporting city in the world has one glaring omission.
But that could all be about to change.
It’s long been a promise of the Labor Party to allow the use of the octagon in the state – it said it would do it in 2012 when it launched the Combat Sports Safety Regulation Reforms Policy.
But it is now getting closer to a reality, with AustralianGambling.com.au’s recommended online bookmakers tipping a Labor landslide, the left a skinny $1.33 with Sportsbet.com.au.
“Most of this money has been on Labor to regain Parliament,” Sportsbet.com.au’s Shaun Anderson told AustralianGambling.com.au.
“At the moment, for every dollar being bet on the Liberals ($3.10), three dollars is being bet on Labor, so they look a good bet.”
Over at BetEasy.com.au, its spokesman, Rob Cumbrae-Stewart said the Libs had hit back in the past month.
“It’s been steady support for Labor ($1.37) over the course of the year,” Cumbrae-Stewart said.
“But the last month has seen a bit of interest in the Liberal Party.
“The Liberal Party got out to a high of $4.15 but are back in to $3 now.”
The UFC had planned to hold an event, that would have featured Aussie powerhouse Mark Hunt, at Etihad Stadium, but the government’s response left that project dead in the water.
Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty indicated his government had no intention of the lifting the ban and the UFC picked up and took their event to Sydney, where number five ranked middle weight Luke Rockhold and big Brit Michael Bisping will go head to head on November 8.
It means that if Labor can be first past the post when Victorians go to the polls on Saturday, November 29, it will be on a promise to lift the ban on fighting in cages.
Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation John Eren is already on the record saying it was time to introduce a safe alternative to a boxing ring for MMA events and, if elected, he would be pushing to change the legislation before the end of the year.
“The Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board (PBCSB) has recommended to Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty that MMA events be required to use a specially designed structure known as an ‘Octagon’ to replace the current use of a boxing ring,” Mr Eren said.
“It needs to be clearly understood that MMA’s are not contests where there are no rules fighting but are a strictly regulated and highly skilled sport.
“Under current Victorian rules it is possible for a contestant to be thrown out of a boxing ring and therefore potentially face the prospect of serious injury.
“The Octagon is an eight sided enclosure that assists fighter safety, and it is safety that should be a priority in regulating the sport.”
Mr Eren said the UFC was regulated in 46 USA states as well as NSW, SA and WA.
“Victoria should be tapping into this sports tourism and jobs potential with a Sydney 2011 event attracting more than 18,000 fans,” he said.
“Holding a UFC event in Melbourne could be a tourism winner for Victoria creating a number of direct and indirect jobs and adding to Victoria’s status as Australia‘s sporting capital.”
Michael Mersch, the UFC’s senior vice president of business and legal affairs and assistant general counsel, and Tom Wright, UFC director of operations for Australia and Canada, have also called on the Minister for Sport and Recreation Hugh Delahunty to support the Labor Party’s reforms
“MMA events are presently only allowed to be conducted in Victoria in boxing rings, which were never designed for MMA competitions,” Mr Mersch said.
“The safety of our athletes is our priority and the octagon is designed to provide the safest environment for MMA competitions.
“We now hope that the Victorian Government agrees to review and lift the current ban on the Octagon, which will allow the UFC to stage events in Melbourne.”
Wright said the UFC wanted to be a regular part of Melbourne’s sporting calendar.
“If the Victorian Government were to approve the use of the Octagon, we would immediately begin the process of planning for an event at Etihad Stadium and bringing a UFC Fan Expo to Victoria, both of which would generate in excess of $38 million in economic activity for Victoria, while strengthening Melbourne’s reputation as Australia’s sporting capital,” Wright said.
“Melbourne is known and respected worldwide as the one of the world’s best sporting cities.
“What better way to maintain and enhance that position than by allowing the Ultimate Fighting Championship the ability to promote the fastest-growing sport in the world in the ultimate sports city?”
The legislation to ban MMA from taking place in a cage or fenced-in environment was, ironically, passed by the Brumby Labor Government in 2008.
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