MMA is not banned in Australia, but the Octagon had been outlawed by most states for many years. UFC president Dana White had been diligently fighting various Australian state governments trying to convince them that the Octagon makes MMA a safer sport, and unless MMA is banned, the Octagon and UFC will bring more benefits to the sport in down under.
There had been some success which led to UFC in Sydney, New South Wales, followed by Brisbane and Gold Coast in Queensland. In Oct 2014, a new government took office in Victoria that eventuated to the lifting of the ban in the state and more significantly, Melbourne city. This victory is exceptionally gratifying as Melbourne, long known as the sporting capital of the country is home to many big international brand names such as Australian Open and Formula One. It is also home to Australia Football League, possibly the sport with the highest turnover in the country making a record A$446 million (approximately US$364) in 2014. In short, Melbournians love sports and UFC is finally coming to town.
The Octagon ban was lifted around the same time when two of Melbourne’s own MMA athletes fought for the first time, a UFC fight in their home country. Both fighters were born and bred in Melbourne, both with undefeated records. What set them apart is the near 2 decades difference in age. Jake Matthews at 20 years old is currently the second youngest fighter on UFC roster. Daniel Kelly had his debut UFC fight at 37 years of age in Sydney Nov 2014. No doubt both will have their eye on the cards for UFC Melbourne set for Nov 2015.
Dana White promises a blockbuster card for Etihad Stadium in Melbourne and a world title belt, maybe even two will be up for grabs; he believes that UFC 193 will be able to draw a crowd of up to 50,000. His optimism could have stemmed from the fact the first two UFC events in Sydney were both sell outs, the second one in 2011 was one of the fastest selling events in UFC history. However, the two events in Sydney had attendance of first 17,431 then 18,186, only a little over a third of 50,000 spectators. The only other UFC event that had ever drawn a crowd of this magnitude was in April 2011 in Toronto. The attendance was 55,724 and the largest UFC turnout in North America history. The event coincided with a 2-day UFC expo nearby. It will not be a surprise if a similar expo is planned in the Melbourne Convention Centre, walking distance from the Etihad Stadium to boost interest in the city.
UFC Australia boss Tom Wright also believes he will be able to delivery an event in Melbourne on par with the Australia Football League grand final, which is no small feat seeing how the last grand final in 2014 drew just shy of 100,000 in attendance.
Western Australia (Capital City Perth) is now the only state in Australia where the Octagon is still banned. Adelaide, South Australia is also being considered for 2015.