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A Dianella (Perth, Australia) based Mixed Martial Arts promoter says Sports Minister Terry Waldron’s decision to ban the use of the “cage” in MMA bouts will leave fighters open to injury, causing fighters and promoters to leave WA.
MMA is a form of full-contact combat sport that combines boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Muay Thai and judo, among other martial arts techniques, with weight divisions similar to boxing.
Competitors are able to win bouts on points, via knockout or through the use of submission holds.
MMA is said to be one of the fastest growing sports on the planet, through US-based promotion company UFC, which has held events in China, Canada, England and Japan, as well as one event in Brisbane and three events in Sydney.
The event in Brisbane broke attendance records for the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, raking in $900,000 in ticket sales alone.
In WA, Mixed Martial Arts is regulated by the Professional Combat Sports Commission of WA under the Professional Combat Sports Act 1987 .
In all states, with the exception of Victoria where the cage is also banned, MMA bouts take place in an octagon-shaped enclosure, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence, usually made of a composite steel-aluminium material.
But recent changes to the Act, which will come into effect in March, have made the use of the octagon illegal.
The change was announced by Mr Waldron on Friday, January 11, saying the Government did not believe it was in the community’s best interest to endorse and encourage participation in “cage” fighting, despite the PCSC recommending the octagon be retained to protect fighters.
Mr Waldron said that although there had been suggestions the cage was the safest contest area for MMA, because the sport was relatively new, the risk had been difficult to prove or quantify.
He said there was nothing to prevent UFC promotions from taking place in Perth, provided the contests were not held in a cage, a remark that drew disbelief from director of UFC Australian, New Zealand and Canadian Operation, Tom Wright.
“It’s more than unlikely, that will never happen,” Mr Wright said from his headquarters in Toronto.
“Frankly, an MMA competition held in a boxing ring is dangerous for the athletes. We wouldn’t allow it. It’s actually a regressive decision and it flies in the face of wanting to protect the health and safety of fighters.”
Dianella-based K-Oz Promotions manager and MMA trainer Grady Stewart’s MMA promotions company has broken attendance records for Australian bouts, and he believes the banning of the enclosure was caused by a misconception about the cage.
Mr Stewart said holding MMA bouts in a conventional boxing ring would put fighters at risk of serious injury.
“They’re putting people at risk because the word cage was used in the infancy of the sport and that word has caused misconceptions about the sport,” he said.
“The ropes of boxing rings are very elastic and even in boxing, people fall through those ropes.
“Now you’ve got MMA, where there is a wrestling component, people tackle each other and people have been seriously injured falling through those ropes in MMA. The fenced enclosure we use prevents that.”
The UFC aims to hold between four and six UFC events in Australia this year. For the full interview with Mr Wright, go to www.inmycommunity.com.au