A few months ago, I wrote about the coming media shit-storm over the UFC event taking place in Sydney this year. Bit of a follow-up:

  • All 16,500 tickets to the show sold out in one day — making it the second-fastest selling UFC event ever. This was actually a pretty big shock to me and most other MMA fans and fighters I know. Your average Aussie MMA event draws a decent crowd, but nothing like that, and it certainly doesn’t enjoy much mainstream popularity.
  • Channel Ten’s ONE HD channel has been airing UFC events and specials (previously only ever shown on PPV on cable), which has no-doubt seen awareness of the sport grow in leaps and bounds in this country. Still, I was surprised to see that the channel will be airing the Sydney UFC show live and free, which is huge — even in the States, you can only watch the big events on PPV.
  • Although some Australian news outlets are still pushing the “human cockfighting” angle, others appear to be embracing the sport: The Daily Tele has dedicated an entire page to MMA on its site, and is running a weekly “diary” by British fighter Michael Bisping in the lead-up to the event. The SMH has also ramped up its coverage, and has signed on Mexican fighter Cain Velasquez as a blogger (I realise they’re both main event fighters, but would it have killed one of them to get one of the Aussie fighters instead? Ah well).

I’m still pretty sure the “WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?” brigade and the AMA will grow a lot more vocal closer to the event, but the mainstream media’s turn-around is heartening. As it’s not an election year in NSW, and the UFC will bring in plenty of bucks to the state, the pollies may even keep their traps shut for once, too.

Either way, it looks like the Aussie fight world is set for some interesting times in 2010. The recent Contender Australia series reportedly rated very well for Fox 8 and the second series of the Muay Thai version, Contender Asia, will start soon(ish; it keeps getting delayed) on pay TV, featuring Aussie fighter Eli Madigan.

It will also be interesting to see how much impact the UFC 11o event will have on the popularity of the sport at a local level. Some friends of mine started running MMA classes last year, and I’ll be watching to see how much the increased exposure of the UFC down under actually translates into new recruits, and whether crowd sizes actually grow at local events.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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