At UFC 110 on February 21, 2010, the UFC® stepped onto Australian soil for the first time. In front of a sell out crowd, the promotion produced a show that cemented its status on a new continent and in front of a new audience.
Five years later, the UFC filled the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne with 56,214 people — the biggest attendance in company history — to see Holly Holm dethrone the then-undefeated Ronda Rousey.
Overall, the UFC has held 13 events in Australia in the past decade, selling out multiple arenas around the continent. As its footprint has grown in the continent since 2010, there still is one box left unchecked:
An Australian champion has never defended a belt on home soil.
Now this comes with a caveat — middleweight champion Robert Whittaker is the first and only Australian (and New Zealand-born) fighter to win a UFC title. But the stars in the outback have aligned, and Whittaker finally gets a chance to defend his belt in front of an Australian crowd on February 10 at UFC 234 when he faces Kelvin Gastelum.
Whittaker's title defense in Melbourne is the culmination of years of evolution in Australian MMA. We are living in what many have deemed the 'golden age' for Australian MMA, and the sport's stock is rising.
In honor of the massive accomplishment at UFC 234, we're looking at some of the biggest Australian fighters that have put the sport on the map down under.
From: South Auckland, New Zealand
Robert Whittaker is undoubtedly the most important man responsible for the current growth of Australian MMA. As the first Australian UFC champion, he has added a legitimacy to the sport in his home continent.
But Whittaker didn't burst onto the scene in the UFC. In fact, it took five years for him to even scratch a title shot. After joining the UFC in December of 2012, Whittaker went 3-2 in his first five bouts at welterweight. The 6-foot tall fighter then made the move to middleweight, where he hit the current stride that he is riding now.
'The Reaper' pulled off six straight wins at his new weight class, including three Performance of the Night honors, to earn himself an interim middleweight title fight at UFC 213 against Yoel Romero. Whittaker defeated Romero by unanimous decision to win the interim strap and become his continent's first ever champion.
He was promoted to undisputed middleweight champion when then-champion Georges St. Pierre vacated his title on December 7, 2017.
But the stage is set for Whittaker to take his place in history when he becomes the first Australian to defend his title on home turf.
From: South Auckland, New Zealand
You can't tell the story of Australian MMA without its original pioneer, Mark Hunt.
The "King of Walk-Offs" became a pulp legend in UFC lore thanks to his highlight reel KOs that will have their own reserved place in the promotion's history.
Hunt was never the most successful fighter in the heavyweight division, but his fights quickly became must-watch television. His accolades speak for themselves — he has been awarded Knockout of the Night twice, Fight of the Night three times and Performance of the Night twice.
The Samoan's UFC career came to an end recently after losing to Justin Willis at Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Tuivasa, but his legacy will remain with the organization for years to come.
From: Queensland, Australia
Not many fighters start their MMA careers at 23, but not many fighters are like Megan Anderson.
As a late bloomer in the sport, the 6-foot tall Anderson used her size and reach as an advantage while working up the ranks of women's MMA. She rose quickly through the featherweight division of Invicta Fighting Championships, becoming its champion in January of 2017.
Anderson was quickly signed to the UFC after the creation of its women's featherweight division, and was given a high-profile debut against former women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm at UFC 223. Anderson lost the fight by decision, but quickly got back on the horse at UFC 229 by defeating Cat Zingano within the first minute.
The only asterisk to the Zingano fight is that Anderson won by TKO after her toenail grazed the eye of Zingano on a kick, forcing the fight to be stopped.
From: Sydney, Australia
At 25-years old, Tai Tuivasa looks to be a mainstay in the heavyweight division for a long time.
The man known as "Bam Bam" only has 11 career fights under his belt, but has already made a strong impression with a win over Andrei Arlovski and a main event opportunity against Junior Dos Santos back in December, which he lost. Tuivasa has made waves mostly, though, as the man to bring the 'Shoey' into the UFC spotlight.
If you're unfamiliar with the 'Shoey' is, please allow Tuivasa to demonstrate:
From: Sydney, Australia
Tuivasa's brother-in-law happens to be the most prominent Australian holding it down in the light heavyweight division. At 27-years old, Tyson Pedro hasn't made life easy for himself since entering the UFC in late 2016. He's faced stiff competition in the past two years, and has a 3-3 record in the promotion. However, those three losses have come against division mainstays Ilir Latifi, Ovince Saint Preux and Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua.
While still at a relatively young age for the weight class, Pedro has time to shake off some of his recent losses, but needs to get back on the horse sooner rather than later if he hopes for an extended run in the UFC.
From: Shellharbour, Australia
If you watched UFC 232, you saw one of the most vicious knockouts of the night take place when featherweight Alexander Volkanovski sent Chad Mendes into retirement.
In a division looking for new contenders, the 19-1 Volkanovski's name has to start being thrown into the mix. The Shellharbour native is 6-0 in the UFC with three finishes and a Fight of the Night performance against Mendes.
See Whittaker vs. Gastelum at UFC 234!
The biggest fight in the middleweight division is taking place at UFC 234, and you still have a chance to be there. While the event sold out in record time, you can be in attendance at Rod Laver Arena on February 10 with an Official Ticket Package from the UFC VIP Experience. This is the ONLY remaining option to secure access to this event, so make sure to grab an Official Ticket Package before it's too late!