Mark Hunt to save Mexico City then headline Mega-event in Melbourne?
Cain Velasquez was forced to withdraw from his title defence against Fabricio Werdum due to injury, setting up a fairytale storyline for ‘renaissance man’ Mark Hunt who steps into the breach at UFC 180.
Velasquez was set to headline the first foray by the organisation onto Mexican soil, but a right knee meniscus tear has ruled him out and the UFC called upon “The Super Samoan”. Hunt was good on his word to never refuse a fight and will step up on 3 weeks notice against Werdum for the Interim UFC heavyweight title.
Dana White called Hunt while he was busy dropping off his kids at school, apparently it went a little like this:
“Mark its Dana, I need you to save Mexico.”
“Save Mexico…have they heard of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?”
“I don’t know Mark, I need you to fight Werdum in Mexico City on November 15th.”
“No problem, after that can I save them?”
“Mark you can do whatever you like, thank you Mark.”
Mark Hunt is is as popular as he is portly, that is to say exceedingly. When he spoke to The Daily Telegraph before flying out “I’ve really gotta hit the roads, drop some weight,’’ he laughed. “But what else is there to do? You don’t say no to an opportunity like this.”. Hunt reportedly needs to drop over 40lbs in 3 weeks to reach the heavyweight limit of 265lbs.
UFC 180 is a sold out event in Mexico City on November 15, 2014.
Other recent events from South Pacific have highlighted the political difficulty faced by the UFC in a number of key states and territories. The UFC is currently unable promote its product in New York City and the Australian state of Victoria due to archaic legislation and illogical ‘cage-bans’, respectively. The only good news for fans in these regions is when these bans are repealed mega events will follow.
Melbourne is the capital of the Australian state of Victoria, the second most populous city in Australia and the ‘sports capital’ of a sports obsessed nation. For reasons best described as continued political shenanigans, the politicians decided to ban the caged enclosure in 2007 while still allowing mixed martial arts competitions to be sanctioned in the ring.
Similariliy in 1997, on the eve of UFC 12, the state of New York enacted laws against UFC ‘no holds barred’ events within the state. A wider push by conservative Sen. John McCain, who famously referred to UFC events as ‘human cockfighting’, saw the UFC banned in 36 states.
Since 2007 the UFC has battled the legislature of New York to effectively legalise mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions, with the aim to schedule a mega-event at Madison Square Gardens. To date the UFC has exhausted legal and political options. The states Senate has passed the proposed bill for many years, only to get bogged down in a review committee and does not reach the Assembly for a decisive vote. It is widely noted that Las Vegas union power has found a way to influence the process as retaliation against UFC owners the Fertitta brothers other business, Station Casinos (a union free workplace).
The outlook for New York is bleak, despite lobbying, lawsuits and acceptance of MMA in 46 states. According to UFC President Dana White “I have no hopes, no aspirations – nothing as far as New York goes. We’ll keep fighting. We’ll keep going in and doing our thing, and one of these days that place will straighten up, and we’ll get it.”
For Victorian’s the political battle is set to be fought out in the polls in late November, with the opposition promising to grant the UFC license to bring the cage into Melbourne. The UFC’s Managing Director for UFC Operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand Tom Wright speculated a Mega-event was on the cards, headlined by Mark Hunt at Etihad Stadium.
“If the Victorian Government were to approve the use of the Octagon, we would immediately begin the process of planning for an event at Etihad Stadium and bringing a UFC Fan Expo to Victoria, both of which would generate in excess of $38 million in economic activity for Victoria, while strengthening Melbourne’s reputation as Australia’s sporting capital.”
This situation mirrors that of Ontario, Canada, where MMA was banned up until 2010, when politicians created legislation which paved the way for a UFC mega event. UFC 129 shattered attendance and gate records for MMA events in North America as 55,000 spectators witnessed a card stacked with Canadian talent and 2 title fights (Jose Aldo vs Mark Hominik and GSP vs Jake Sheilds).
(slider photo courtesy of Juggernaut by Mark Hunt)