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Stadium chief defends cage-fighting plans

04 Jun 2015

Stadium chief defends cage-fighting plans Image

Etihad Stadium CEO Paul Sergeant has defended plans to host a cage-fighting event in Docklands.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is planning to bring an event to Melbourne later this year and Mr Sergeant said there was a good chance it would be held at Etihad Stadium.

Mr Sergeant predicted the proposed event would sell-out, bringing a crowd of more than 50,000 people to the area.

The stadium has the support of the Docklands Chamber of Commerce for its intention to bring the UFC event to Docklands, but has been met with opposition from the Docklands Community Association (DCA).

The DCA last month released results of a survey of more than 100 residents, which saw 75 per cent of respondents oppose the proposal to bring cage fighting to Docklands.

Association president Roger Gardner told the April 29 Docklands Community Forum his association had concerns about the event in relation to safety, security and anti-social behaviour.

But Mr Sergeant dismissed the results of the DCA survey, saying they were based on opinion rather than reality.

“It’s stereotyping the sport and stereotyping the followers of the sport, based on nothing other than opinion,” Mr Sergeant said.

“It’s not the crowd people might anticipate, in fact far from. They are as well behaved as any crowd you can come across,” he said.

Mr Sergeant said he had been involved in two UFC events in his previous role as general manager of Allphones Arena in Sydney and had never experienced any issues with the crowd.

“It’s a myth that it’s followed by hoodlums,” Mr Sergeant said. “The vast majority, I know from first-hand experience, are lawyers, doctors, accountants, professional people who are massive followers of the sport.”

Mr Sergeant said the event would be a major coup for both the stadium and for Docklands.

He said the venue for the event was dependent on which fighters the UFC was able to secure and at least two world championship fighters would need to be on the card to warrant a venue the size of
Etihad Stadium.

“If they get the card together, we think it would sell pretty strongly,” Mr Sergeant said.

“It would probably sell-out, such is the following in Australia for the sport of UFC.”

According to Docklands Chamber of Commerce President Joh Maxwell, a cage fighting event at Etihad Stadium could only be good news for Docklands.

“The chamber supports the activation of Etihad Stadium and Docklands through large-scale events,” Mrs Maxwell said.

“All our businesses welcome the guests that come through Docklands as a result of these kinds of events.”

“We don’t hold any security or safety concerns about a cage-fighting event and believe in Etihad Stadium's ability to manage an event of this kind,” she said.

Mr Sergeant said the event would attract a national audience and, with a weigh-in the day before the main event, would span a weekend.

“Certainly in terms of inbound tourism there’d be thousands of people coming here for the weekend.”

The event would be held during the day, starting around 9am in the morning and continuing into the early afternoon, in order to reach the US television audience.

A venue decision is expected in the next few months and the event would be staged towards the end of the year.

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