Homegrown hero ready for UFC's return to Sydney
Home-grown heavyweight Tai "Bam Bam" Tuivasa will feature in Sydney's first flagship UFC event in 12 years as officials dismiss a potential clash with the NRL finals.
UFC 293 on September 10 will be the first of three Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view events held in the harbour city over the next four years.
The $16 million deal with the NSW government brings the franchise back to Sydney for the first time since 2017 and the first flagship "numbered" event since 2011.
That 2017 fight night launched the career of Mount Druitt's Tuivasa, now the No.6 ranked heavyweight in the world's premier mixed martial arts organisation, boasting a 15-5 (14 KO) record.
"UFC events are better in real life, they're always a great time," Tuivasa told reporters on Thursday.
"We've been talking behind the scenes, there's going to be a week's holiday after the UFC for recovery time."
Extolling the athleticism and discipline required in UFC, Premier Chris Minns said the "massive event" would attract an enormous amount of international interest and tourism to Sydney.
The franchise has more than 100 million social media followers, including six million across Australia and New Zealand.
Two UFC events in Melbourne attracted crowds of more than 55,000, with one generating $124 million in economic activity while two-thirds of ticket buyers for February's UFC 284 in Perth came from interstate or overseas.
The package of flagship events, offering a chance to compound marketing and exposure year after year, made the deal particularly attractive, the premier said.
"We have to invest in fixed events to drive tourism and drive economic activity in Australia's largest city," he told reporters.
"If you look at the major criticism of Destination NSW and our tourism plan, it hasn't been based around bringing people back to the city - they're one-off events."
Each event will feature at least one women's bout.
"When it comes to UFC and gender equality, no one else does it better," UFC's Australia and New Zealand chief Peter Kloczko said.
"All the way from the pay scale, the rules, equipment, the time limits per bout, it's all on an even keel with our men's division."
While the Sunday afternoon slot is locked in, the location is still up for negotiation.
Potential sites include the 21,000-seat Sydney Superdome, 30,000-seat Parramatta Stadium or 45,500-seat Sydney Football Stadium.
A potential clash looms with week one of the NRL finals but Mr Minns said it wasn't a case of prioritising one sport over the other.
"It's a busy time in the sporting calendar. That's a good thing for Sydney," he said.
"Sydney is the sporting capital of Australia."
Wherever UFC 293 lands, Tuivasa doesn't mind. But he's sure of one thing if it goes west.