Burgeoning MMA, UFC Threatening Boxing in Australia

Australia_kangaroo_mediumThat's the takeaway from this piece in The Australian:

UFC 110, held on February 21, sold out within hours -- the second fastest sell-out in the UFC organisation's history. It will set a new revenue record for a sporting event held at Sydney's Acer Arena, the same venue that played host to the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Danny Green-Roy Jones Jr fight on December 2. It will be among the biggest revenue generators in the history of Acer Arena. Not a single fighter had been announced on the card when tickets went on sale, not a single dollar was spent on advertising.

Already pay-per-view channel Main Event is favouring UFC over boxing. When Floyd Mayweather made his comeback against Juan Manuel Marquez on September 19, it was a UFC event that was shown live instead. Coverage of the boxing was pushed back a day. The Anthony Mundine-Danny Green super fight in 2006 remains the No 1 pay-per-view event in Australian TV history. Outside that, the UFC dominates.

...

"Boxing should be very worried and concerned at the growth and crowd appeal of UFC," Hyder told The Australian.

"Boxing can take a leaf out of UFC's book by putting on more exciting matches together.

"In UFC one fighter is told `You are fighting him', that's it.

"You have to remember UFC is a concept, whereas boxing in this country has to fall back on is on the back of a Danny Green, Vic Darchinyan or an Anthony Mundine. Once they get beat, people quickly drop off them."

I look to some of our Australian readers to provide their perspective on the position of UFC in Australia and whether this Australian writer is actually onto something. I generally dismiss articles that continue to spread the meme that MMA is a function solely of a thirst for violence while boxing is declining in popularity due to its inability to quench that unholy thirst. I admit I am unfamiliar with the prevailing attitudes on the ground Down Under, so anyone with valuable perspective is encourage to contribute.

The only aspect of this story that cannot be dismissed is that boxing doesn't have a particularly strong grip on Australian athletics, relative to other countries of similar size with citizenry who have modern standards of purchasing power. While MMA is very much an inchoate entity within Australia, the capacity for growth and development is extraordinarily high. Much higher than boxing's. And given that Thai boxing as well as more Western styles of kickboxing have an audience in Australia and New Zealand, we must also acknowledge we are dealing with a population likely more primed for MMA than citizenry in countries unaccustomed to combat athletics.

Either way, I'm curious to see what the post-fight press fallout in Australia will look like. Will the reporters ape American reporters who acknowledge the UFC's financial success while being condescending about the fanbase? Will they be converted by the experience? Or will they continue to put up a fight about the direction sports and society is taking in general? While every social adaptation is a function of the particular situation from whence it derives, the evolution of the press' view of MMA in Australia helps the rest of us to see if there's a pattern in how opinion leaders alter their views on the sport over time.

I eagerly await the response.

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