More than 1,200 days passed since the last time UFC held an event in Australia. At UFC 243, Israel Adesanya knocked out Robert Whittaker to unify the middleweight title in front of a record-breaking crowd inside Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium. Dan Hooker outclassed Al Iaquinta in the co-main while Brad Riddell and Jamie Mullarkey put on the Fight of the Night.
Since then, the promotion held more than 130 events – many without crowds amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – while MMA fans down under waited eagerly for the Octagon to return to its shores.
Now, finally, UFC touches down in Perth, Western Australia, for UFC 284, with a pair of belts on the line, as well as the No. 1 pound-for-pound rankings up for grabs.
The man shouldering the nation’s hopes, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski, hopes to end the night on a high note for those coming to RAC Arena, where he challenges Islam Makhachev for the lightweight strap and double-champ status. While those aspirations might cultivate some pressure on “The Great,” he is maintaining his usual unflappable demeanor.
“I don’t feel like there’s any pressure on me,” he said. “I think the pressure is all on Islam, especially because of the way he’s talking.”
Welcome Back Australia | UFC 284
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Welcome Back Australia | UFC 284
Volkanovski is one of 10 fighters from the Oceania region (eight Australians, two New Zealanders) competing on the card.
Two fighters set to do battle in Perth, Mullarkey and Tafa, also competed at UFC 243, and in Mullarkey’s mind, this weekend’s event is going to exceed the atmosphere he experienced during his UFC debut.
“I think this weekend is going to be bigger,” Mullarkey said. “Since UFC 243, we’ve had a lot more success with our country, with Australian MMA, especially in the UFC, and now for Alex going for champ-champ, this is literally history.”
In 2022, UFC started returning to some form of its road schedule, holding a pair of events in London, its first in Paris and several in cities across the United States. The cards in London and Paris, however, featured particularly energetic atmospheres.
That said, the Aussies are anticipating something as good if not even greater – naturally – when the fights finally start on Sunday morning in Perth.
“I can’t really put my finger on it,” said Jimmy Crute, who fights Alonzo Menifield. “I know the energy is just – Australian sports fans in general, there’s something about that, but I think the fact that we love our own, but we’re not disrespectful to opposition is a big thing. I think we cheer for everyone. We just cheer for our own louder, and when I say that, I mean we cheer for our own very, very loud.”
Although the card is obviously huge for the Australian MMA scene, it is also crucial for the whole market.
New Zealand’s Shane Young, who is fighting in front of a crowd for the first time since 2019, hopes UFC 284 is also the next step in bringing another card to his country.
“I hope one of the takeaways is that the Australasian market is frothing to have another event in Auckland,” Young said. “I know this event sold out in minutes. I had people messaging me saying they were in the queue picking their tickets, and they went to buy them, and it was gone. You can’t even buy a ticket if you tried right now, and the performances on Sunday are definitely going to reflect that. I know mine will.”
First comes the fans in Western Australia, though, who had hoped to see their second UFC pay-per-view event (following UFC 221) in 2020. Although, like everyone else in the world, that was postponed, the timing might have worked out for the better, as it allowed Perth native Jack Della Maddalena to make his way to the big stage.
After earning his contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Della Maddalena tallied a trio of first-round knockouts and earned a reputation as one of the country’s hottest prospects. And he is particularly keen on seeing and hearing the friendly confines of RAC Arena.
“I think there'll be a lot of buzz,” he said. “I think anyone that doesn't know me is going to jump on the bandwagon anyway if they’re in the crowd and get behind me, so I expect some rowdy fans. I’m going to go in there and give it my all.”
It’s all leading to a historic matchup between Volkanovski and Makhachev, a true treat for fight fans all across the world. After years of waiting, UFC and Australia’s fruitful relationship adds another chapter to its epic book.
“The atmosphere is going to be incredible,” Volkanovski said. They’re obviously going to be backing all the Aussies that’ll be fighting, including myself, so I’m looking forward to that.
“You can expect the roof being blown off when we get our hand raised.”
UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski took place live from RAC Arena in Perth, Western Australia on February 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass!