NRL blindsided by NSW Government's UFC announcement
The NRL was not informed of the NSW Government's plans to bring a UFC card to Sydney in the first weekend of this year's finals series despite the potential for a venue clash.
NSW Premier Chris Minns announced on Thursday that UFC 293 would be held in Sydney on Sunday, September 10 as part of a $16 million deal to bring three UFC cards to the city over the next four years.
The event is expected to generate millions of dollars for the local economy as thousands converge on Sydney.
A venue is yet to be locked in for this year's Sydney fight card but outdoor and indoor options will be on the table when Minns, the UFC and Destinations NSW meet to determine a suitable location.
"There's a few venues that are obviously prime options," Minns said.
"Wherever it's held, it's going to attract an enormous amount of international interest and tourism visitors to NSW."
With a 21,000-seat capacity, Sydney's largest indoor venue Qudos Bank Arena would likely be too small to accommodate the demand expected - Melbourne's last UFC event attracted 57,127 spectators in 2019 and the sport's international popularity has only grown since then.
The inclusion of home-grown fighter Tai Tuivasa is set to bring locals out of the woodwork as well.
Minns explained a Sunday timeslot had been chosen to ensure international viewers could tune in at a reasonable hour on Saturday local time.
"A numbered UFC event has to take place on a Sunday because it's got to pick up the broadcasting around the world, primarily in the United States," Minns said.
The NRL has hosted at least one finals match on the Sunday of the first week of the finals series in every season since 2004, and this year, that Sunday comes on the same day as UFC 293.
Under the current finals structure introduced in 2012, the Sunday fixture has been an elimination final, with the side finishing higher on the ladder able to nominate the home venue of their choice.
Selecting any of Parramatta Stadium, Sydney Football Stadium or Stadium Australia could have ramifications for NRL sides as the Eels play the majority of home games at Parramatta Stadium, the Sydney Roosters at Sydney Football Stadium and South Sydney and Canterbury at Stadium Australia.
The last time Wests Tigers qualified for the finals, they also nominated Stadium Australia as their preferred home venue.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo declined to comment when contacted by AAP, other than to say the NSW Government had not been in touch about a possible venue clash.
The NRL is already preparing to vacate preferred venues to make way for the FIFA Women's World Cup later this year but Minns shrugged off speculation the league could be shafted by the UFC event.
"I don't think it necessarily has to come down to that," he said.
"It's a busy time in the sporting calendar but that's a good thing for Sydney."