Aussie fighters enjoy home cooking

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

SYDNEY – Elvis Sinosic lives in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It's so gorgeous and enticing that it's impossible not to think about living there full-time. Yet, for most of his professional life, Sinosic has had to pack his bags and hit the road to make a living in his chosen profession.

Sinosic lives here in Sydney and is one of the pioneers in Australian mixed martial arts. He began fighting almost 13 years ago but had to leave the country if he wanted to find any legitimate competition or shows that were more than just a gathering of a few friends.

But on Saturday (Sunday in Australia), Sinosic will walk to the cage to fight fellow Australian Chris Haseman in Acer Arena at UFC 110. He'll get to sleep in that morning, and in his own bed. He'll have friends and family at ringside cheering him on.

"I'm looking forward to competing here in the UFC, in Sydney, in the greatest sport in the greatest city in the world," Sinosic said.

He's almost beside himself with glee. After having had to flown more than 10,000 miles from his home to get fights in his past, on Saturday it will be a short ride to a welcome place filled with friendly faces.

Sinosic actually is one of four Australians on the card, sharing the bill with Haseman, George Sotiropoulos and James Te Huna. It's hard to blame them for being giddy at the opportunity.

Haseman, who is from Brisbane, grew up in martial arts and his father is one of Australia's leading jiu-jitsu instructors. Still, few Australians had a concept of mixed martial arts in the late 1990s.

Frequently, Haseman would simply avoid discussing his profession so as to dodge confrontation.

He may keep quiet about it now, only to avoid being hounded for tickets. The card sold out in one day and ticket lust is evident throughout the city.

"It's amazing to be here in Sydney for a press conference and UFC 110," Haseman said. "You look back to the '90s, there was nothing here."

But when Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, began selling DVDs of its fights, it noticed that an inordinately high percentage of its sales were coming from Australia. The sport grew rapidly and was accepted by media and politicians alike.

When the UFC went to Germany last year, one major German newspaper wrote that fights would go to the death. It was so incorrect it was laughable. Mixed martial arts is as safe as a combat sport can get, with only one death in a sanctioned fight and none on a UFC card.

The Australian media has displayed an understanding of the sport and there have been few, if any, of the tired cliches about the horrors that the sport will inflict upon society that were so prevalent in Germany.

Sinosic had a hard time believing what he was seeing as he looked out at a phalanx of reporters, photographers and television cameras.

It had the feel of a major sporting event, which he would have had difficulty even imagining in Australia just a few short years ago.

"We were learning every step of the way," he said of MMA's early days in Australia. "We were trailblazing. We were taking things from different sports and we had to learn on our own and investigate, because there was nothing before us. "That was one of the really interesting things. You'd take something from somewhere else and try to apply it, and then you'd have to evolve it to try and make it your own."

The development of mixed martial arts in Australia has let to more customized training programs and conditioning programs – along with MMA-specific coaches. "Back in the day, I'd go to a kickboxing coach, then I'd go to another wrestling coach, then I'd go to a boxing coach and they'd all want you to do things their way," Sinosic said.

And it wasn't simply the coaching. There was next-to-no fan or media interest and the rules were primitive, and rules and regulations varied depending upon where you fought.

"In those days, every promotion had its own rules," Sinosic said. "Every promoter had their own way of promoting the fights. Now we have consistency. We have consistent rules and commissions across the board. Now, we have rounds and doctors and everyone looking after you.

"We have the press here. Back in the day, we probably had two guys sitting there who were writing for an Internet site. Now, we have the full Australian press here, and deservedly. We have the greatest fighters in the world and the greatest athletes in the world in the greatest organization in the world. "It really has been an amazing transition to watch and I just feel honored to have been a part of it."

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