Melbourne to host first UFC event after eight-year ban

Melbourne, Nov 12 (IANS) The Australian state of Victoria is set to stage its first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event this Sunday after laws were changed recently that overturned an eight-year ban on cage fighting, Xinhua reported.

The show, billed as UFC 193, will be headlined by UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, who is defending her title against former boxing world champion Holly Holm, and UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk who is being challenged by Valerie LeTourneau.

Rousey, who won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is undefeated since joining the UFC and is now the sport’s highest paid fighter, with earnings of around five million US dollars.

The champion will be defending her title for the seventh time after being awarded the inaugural women’s title when she was the first women signed to the UFC in November 2012.

Rousey has dominated the sport in the way few fighters – male or female – have since UFC’s inception. Her last three fights have lasted 16, 14 and 34 seconds, respectively, as she has dismissed all challenges to her crown.

While Holm is also unbeaten, Rousey remains an overwhelming favourite, with most experts and bookmakers expecting the American to bludgeon her way to another title defense.

Five Australians are scheduled to fight on the card, which has 13 fights in total, amounting to over six hours of octagon action including a rematch of 2013 fight-of-the-year candidate involving New Zealander Mark Hunt and Brazilian Antonio Silva.

As the only Melbourne fighter on the card, Jake Matthews carries the hopes of the city when he squares off against Mexican Akbarh Arreola in a preliminary fight early in the card.

With the main card set to be broadcast worldwide on pay-per-view, it is a showcase event and the UFC are already planning to return annually for an event in Melbourne, a city which takes pride in its title as the sports capital of Australia.

Yet cage fighting had been banned in Victoria since 2007, due to crowd violence at events which led to the former government bringing in legislation that meant anyone caught promoting an event could face up to an 8,500 US dollars fine or 12 months’ imprisonment.

Before the ban was lifted, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events were conducted in a boxing ring which led to safety concerns, as fighters sometimes fell out of the ring and were injured.

But, with the increasing popularity of the sport and new safety measures put in place, the ban was lifted by the new Victorian Government earlier this year. Western Australia is now the only Australian state where cage fighting is banned.

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