Bashings linked to cage fights
Bashings linked to cage fights

Department of Sport and Recreation director-general Ron Alexander believes the emergence of mixed martial arts has contributed to a rise in violence in Perth.

MMA is a combat sport in which athletes use striking and grappling techniques to win bouts by knockout, submission or decision.

The bouts are typically held in a cage, which the State Government has banned, effective on Friday.

Perth's MMA community is frustrated about the ban and has compiled a 1000-signature petition calling for it to be overturned in the name of fighter safety.

Promoter Grady Stewart, who is staging WA's last MMA event in a cage tonight, said holding bouts in a boxing ring was dangerous.

But Mr Alexander said the Government had ruled on behalf of the wider community by not supporting cage fighting.

He said there were concerns about "kick-on effects", such as those cited by high-ranking police, who had linked MMA with changes in the violence seen on Perth streets.

"Talking to our law enforcement officers at the top level, I'm told that violence in our community and the things that people do in fights has changed markedly at the same time as this sport has emerged," he said.

"Senior police officers have seen a correlation between the emergence of this sport and the level of brutality they see in fights."

A spokeswoman for Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan confirmed Mr O'Callaghan had discussed the potential influence of the sport with Mr Alexander.

However the discussion was "conceptual" and similar to concerns about violence in video games, television and movies.

WA Police Union president George Tilbury said he thought Mr Alexander was "drawing a bit of a long bow". Over the past decade, MMA has exploded globally on the back of US-based promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

UFC director of operations for Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Tom Wright, flew to Perth this week to meet Government officials.

He said the ban had left him dumbfounded and disappointed, especially as the UFC had planned an event at Perth Arena this year.

"At times, we run into the sort of roadblocks that we have here in WA, where the ongoing and safe development of the sport is being somewhat restricted," he said.

"The decision was founded more on a perception. As the sport continues to grow . . . those perceptions will change in time."

He said an event at Perth Arena, which the UFC had reserved for December 7, would have put about $10 million into the Perth economy.

Australian UFC fighter Anthony Perosh, 40, opposes the ban.

"My first five matches as a professional were in a boxing ring," he said. "Pretty much every second time I drove my opponent against the ropes, we would end up through the ropes."

But Mr Alexander said boxing rings could be modified to make them safer for MMA.

The West Australian

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