UFC fighter Sean Strickland makes sexist comments at press conference ahead of Sydney event
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The NSW government is standing by its sponsorship of a Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC) event in Sydney this weekend despite a mixed martial arts fighter making sexist comments at a media conference promoting the taxpayer-funded bout.
American middleweight Sean Strickland made the remarks in front of NSW government branding this week while promoting his upcoming fight at Sydney Olympic Park, the first of three UFC events Labor promised to bring to the Harbour City.
The deal with the UFC is reportedly costing the NSW public $16 million.
"Women don't need to work, they need to stay home and raise a family," Strickland told reporters on Wednesday.
He added he would turn "cannibal" and lose the will to live if there were no women on the planet to look after him.
"I've got to make my own food, fold my own laundry, what is the f—ing point?"
Strickland appeared at the press conference held at Sydney's Hilton Hotel wearing a T-shirt that read "Cancel me".
In question time in parliament last month, the state's opposition asked the government whether it would withdraw support for the event if Strickland participated, citing examples of the fighter's sexist, homophobic and racist language.
Deputy Liberal leader Natalie Ward detailed how Strickland had described his likely opponent in the Sydney fight, Nigerian-born New Zealand fighter Israel Adesanya, in vulgar and homophobic terms.
Sport Minister Steve Kamper told parliament: "It is not my call whether Mr Strickland participates, but we support the UFC, and we are looking forward to the UFC."
In a social media post this week announcing his arrival in Sydney, Strickland said he thought he would be "surrounded by dirty liberalS [sic]" with "gay and trans flags everywhere".
He also took aim at Australia's gun control laws, saying he was coming to "save" the country because it was illegal to carry weapons without a licence.
Premier Chris Minns said Strickland's comments were "appalling" and should not be tolerated.
But he said the views should not tarnish the rest of the UFC community.
"There's millions of people that like the sport, that love the sport, that follow it, that don't hold those views at all."
Mr Minns said he was not aware of any behavioural standards for fighters in the government's contract with the UFC.
"That would be the case with our arrangements with the New South Wales Rugby League, and our arrangements with the A-League, and our arrangements with Opera Australia, and the chamber orchestras in New South Wales," he said.
"This will be a major UFC event. It's driven a lot of traffic and interest in Sydney. It's massive for the New South Wales economy."
In a statement to the ABC, Mr Kamper said UFC was "not everyone's cup of tea" but was a legitimate sport, adding "you can't taint a whole sport because of one or two people".
"The NSW government does not endorse any disrespectful or offensive commentary whether it be from a UFC competitor, a footballer, or a musician."
He said the three UFC events were expected to inject $30 million into the state's visitor economy over four years.
The shadow minister for women and prevention of domestic violence, Leslie Williams, said Strickland's views were "reprehensible".
She said the government should have known it was "not unusual for Mr Strickland to use this language".
"They do not reflect the expectations of Australians. We're not in the 19th century anymore," Ms Williams said.
"$16 million is a considerable amount of money we could be spending supporting women and children fleeing domestic violence."
Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said: "Sydney is fully accepting and loving of the LGBTQ community, if Mr Strickland wants to avoid such cities, it's best he leaves now."
The UFC has been contacted for comment.
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