The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a Mixed Martial Arts contest, has recently become one of the more popular sports in Australia – and indeed the world. UFC events are now televised in more than 150 countries and viewed by around one billion people.
Except, despite it’s popularity in Australia (A 2010 UFC event held in Sydney sold out in 20 minutes – the quickest sell-out in UFC history), it’s been effectively banned by the Victorian Government. And, in their ban, they have actually made the sport more dangerous.
One MP remarked that he found “absolutely no joy whatsoever from watching” a UFC event. But since when did we decide what sports should be legal based on what members of Parliament personally enjoyed watching?
There are probably a lot of things in our personal lives that politicians would not enjoy watching, but happily remain legal. There’s no question UFC is not a sport for everyone. But every athlete who competes and every spectator who attends does so voluntarily.
No one is forcing them to participate. But a paternalistic State Government is preventing them from doing it safely.
The Victorian Government does not ban MMA outright. It instead bans the UFC’s preferred arena, known as the octagon. MMA events have been occurring in Victoria for many years. But because of the octagon ban they have been taking place in a boxing ring.
This makes the competitors much less safe. The octagon is pivotal in providing safety to the athletes. The rubber-coated fence prevents competitors from falling or being thrown into the surrounding area, something that occurs often when bouts take place in a boxing ring. The Government’s ban on the octagon has the perverse consequence of making the sport much more dangerous.
And that is why the ban on the octagon is not supported by the head of the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board, the government body that regulates MMA in Victoria. The board was not consulted when the decision was made, despite chairman Bernie Balmer having previously advised the minister that the octagon represented “a safer environment”…
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