On any given weekend when the Australian Rules (AFL) Football season is running, there are upwards of 100,000 registered players across the country taking the field donning their team colors to entertain fans, friends and families alike. The greater majority of this number is made up from people competing at a grassroots level all across Australia, in particularly the state of Victoria.

Now, imagine if the players went interstate to find that their grassy battleground was to be replaced with concrete due to a state government having a severe lack of understanding of the basic fundamentals of athlete safety. A similar scenario is occurring for mixed martial artists when they compete in Victoria.

This past week, the #ClickForVic campaign was launched by the UFC. It is an attempt to help gather more support to lift the Victorian state government’s ban of mixed martial arts taking place inside a fenced enclosure. A lot of the UFC’s biggest figures have gotten behind this initiative, in particular, the promotion’s president Dana White.

The severity of the whole situation and the impact that it has on the sporting culture of Melbourne is outlined perfectly in the second paragraph of a press release that was issued by the UFC.

“While professional mixed martial arts is sanctioned and regulated or self-regulated in all Australian states and territories, two states will not allow competitions in a fenced-in enclosure such as the UFC’s Octagon®. Victoria and Western Australia are the only two places in the entire world where professional MMA competitions must take place in a boxing ring rather than an Octagon.”

In the official press release, Tom Wright, UFC Director of Operations for Australia, New Zealand and Canada, made the intentions of the campaign clear and suggested the missed opportunity that exists for the state of Victoria.

“This year alone, the UFC will hold more than 30 events around the world and close to 400 individual competitions, all held in a safe, fenced-in enclosure,” said Wright. “Our first priority is the safety of our athletes and what we won’t do—and never will—is hold an event in a boxing ring.”

The city of Melbourne has a sporting culture like no other in Australia. A regular-season game of AFL can attract upwards of 40,000 spectators and a marquee game can sell out the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) with a capacity of 100,000. Bringing a high-demand show such as the UFC to this kind of market would certainly increase tourism to the already attractive destination and add some much needed revenue to an economy that is going to suffer another blow due to job losses throughout the city.

“We’ve held successful events around the globe, including four in New South Wales and Queensland,” Wright said. “Victoria and Western Australia are just as anxious and deserving markets—we want to bring the UFC to them.”

If the campaign was just about marketing and keeping the image of the UFC the same across the globe, the organization could just as easily adapt and feature bouts inside an eight-sided ring instead of the traditional boxing ring that events are forced to take place inside under the current regulations. For the UFC, though, it’s not about marketing. Instead, it’s solely a focus on the sport of MMA and the safety of fighters who compete in bouts across the state.

So the next time that you see a sporting team running out onto their field, court or pitch, lend a thought to the professional mixed martial artists in the state of Victoria. Each and every time that they compete, they are forced to do so in an environment that is not designed for the complexity and skills of the sport.

And if you cannot relate to another sport’s code having their competitive space changed, think of it this way: the next time you enter your own workplace to earn a hard day’s wages, your new work environment is a cliff face. And your desk? It’s sitting dangerously close to a fall that could see you injured in a way that you never could have imagined.

Fans can show their support and are urged to like and share the campaign on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/clickforvic, or follow on Twitter at @ClickforVic. You can also use the hashtag #ClickforVic in conversations.

Photo: Mark Hunt, James Te Huna and Robert Whittaker Support ClickforVic (Facebook.com/ClickForVic)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.