UFC 196 hit pubs across Australia yesterday and amid the bloody upset a testosterone-charged pack of men played wanna-be outside the Hurstville Ritz.
The Ultimate Fighting Championships cage-fighting phenomenon is a raw, often graphic embodiment of violence, between highly trained athletes and under close scrutiny, abiding by the “Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts”.
Yesterday’s bout between trash-talking Irishman Conor McGregor and cocky Californian Nate Diaz was a big drawcard for the sport, and adding to this the pair traded insults and argy-bargy at a press conference earlier in the week.
Despite the hype, and Conor’s record of 14 bouts unbeaten in the UFC¹, Diaz claimed something of a surprise victory in the second round, getting the three-division champion to submit.
But two groups reportedly got into an argument inside The Ritz even before the ten-minute fight was over, and pushing and punches escalated into a sad display of aggression that spilled outside.
Police report being called just after 5pm to a fight involving between 40 and 50 people.
Two 17-year-olds sustained injuries; one a fractured eye socket. He was taken to St George Hospital for treatment.
Paradoxically, the only arrest at the scene was of a 15-year-old girl, for offensive language, but investigations are continuing.
The McGregor-Diaz fight was a last-minute line-up, after Rafael dos Anjos suffered a broken foot and had to withdraw. Diaz had only two weeks to prepare for the bout.
The sport’s ever-growing popularity now sees contenders compete for big purses; McGregor will reportedly walk away as loser with a seven-figure sum, Diaz around half of that.
Its increasing prominence and appeal to young men has created a new era of bloodsport fans, and inspired a new generation of martial arts students.
But while unsettled youths struggle with the age-old encumbrance of excess energy and social uncertainty, the significance of the sports’ safeguards – namely padded floors, a referee and strict rules – can be lost on amateur try-hards, who can easily inflict more serious damage than a bloody UFC match.
¹ McGregor has previously fought as a UFC Featherweight, Lightweight and Welterweight, but came up to the division of Middleweight for Sunday’s match, which he described after the loss as having been taking “a chance”.
During his 14 wins, McGregor is attributed with one of the fastest recorded knockouts in Mixed Martial Arts, ending a fight in Ireland in just four seconds.