MELBOURNE, Australia — There is a common misconception that the Ultimate Fighting Championship had not held an event in Melbourne, known as the sporting capital of Australia, because mixed martial arts was banned in the state.
That wasn’t necessarily true.
While MMA competition has been legal all along, the Victorian government had in place a ban on any fights taking place inside a cage.
UFC officials had no intention of holding events in a boxing ring, so the organization visited Australia seven times without a stop in Melbourne.
All that changes on Sunday when Ronda Rousey defends her women’s bantamweight title against Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium.
The ban on the cage was lifted in March, but not everyone is on board. An editorial in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, a longtime critical voice of the sport, made the case that children should not be allowed to attend the live event.
A case was laid out in the editorial, which ran on Wednesday.
“Its attraction is a gladiatorial contest that can cause serious injury and has seen unconscious fighters being administered oxygen to revive them,” it read in part. “There is no age limit on those who might attend these events and while it is difficult to imagine that parents would willingly expose young children to violence, an age limit should be imposed.”
UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt grew up in New Zealand and now lives and trains in Sydney. He began his career fighting in Melbourne and has followed the issue closely.
“I think (local opponents of MMA) try to associate street thuggery and street fighting with what we do in the sport of mixed martial arts,” he said. “But if anyone is an example, it’s me. I started from that and moved totally away from violence and those types of thing. Every martial artist knows when you get into training, you move away from the aggression and the anger and all that. I’m a pure example.”
Rousey said each family should be allowed to decide whether they want their kids to watch UFC, or anything questionable for that matter.
“It’s personal and up to the parents. A lot of parents think it’s right for their kids to sit in the front row of a WWE event where people are getting smacked in the face with ladders and bleeding all over the place. That’s their decision. I watched WWE growing up and I thought it was awesome and now I consider myself a functioning adult,” she said. “A lot of people would disagree with that and a lot of people disagree with fighting. A lot of people might have a problem with the fact it’s a loud and boisterous crowd.
“I’m not going to tell anyone how to raise their kid.”
In Rousey’s opinion, conflict is going to occur in the world. The structured environment of a UFC cage is as good a way as any to make that safely happen.
“Fighting is something human. It’s not something wrong. It’s an instinct inside of all of us. It’s not about old or young or man or woman, every single one of us has an instinct to fight,” she said. “To suppress that is unsafe. I think we all need to embrace a safe and controlled environment where people can see it’s not something you should be ashamed of, but something that should be channeled in the right way and I think UFC is that way everyone has been looking for.”
The same opinion is not shared by the Herald Sun editorial staff, which is still pushing to reinstitute a ban on the cage
“The notion of children watching this usually blood-spattered violence is obscene and unacceptable,” they wrote. “Better the cage is banned. At the very least, children should not be allowed to watch a spectacle that may well affect them in their later lives.”
The paper will be pleased to know that at least one kid won’t be watching cageside. Mark Hunt said he left his youngest son home with relatives.
It’s not because he’s protecting him, however.
Hunt said the kid would normally be cage side, but his wife needed a break.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj