In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, UFC president Dana White stated that the Ultimate Fighting Championship would be returning to Montreal, Quebec in the spring and has plans of securing a show in Ontario in 2009
White said, “We’re going to attack Toronto and we’re going to get that done. We want to get a fight done in Ontario bad. And we’re going to do a big stadium there too. We’re not talking 10, 15, 20,000, we’re going to do a big stadium in Toronto.”
That big stadium will be the Rogers Centre, formerly known as the Sky Dome. The Rogers Centre was opened on June 3, 1989 and is home to Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. The facility has a seating capacity of approximately 55,000.
When reports asked White about the Rogers Centre, he smiled and said “Maybe.”
Now there is no doubt that a show in Ontario would do massive ticket sales, especially if UFC welterweight champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre was the headliner. With that being said, MMA still unsanctioned in Ontario and unless White can work some magic, it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.
Prior to UFC 83, Ontario Athletics Commissioner Ken Hayashi was provided with an invite by Zuffa to witness Serra vs. St. Pierre II live but he declined the invitation saying, “I think it would be inappropriate to attend an event that we have determined to be illegal.”
Hayashi currently the largest roadblock to MMA is Ontario. MMA isn’t the only combat sport that has had issues with the commissioner. The kickboxing community has had their share of battles and though kickboxing is sanction, fighters are forced to wear standardized boxing gloves, fight in a traditional boxing ring and kicks are allowed but only above the waist.
When asked by SLAM! Sports about allowing kickboxing and not MMA, Hayashi said, “It’s still a stretch absolutely but that’s the limit the government feels comfortable with. (Kick boxers) can’t kick to the legs, they can’t grab, they can’t throw to the ground, can’t choke out, can’t put someone in a submission hold, can’t elbow, can’t knee… there is a difference.”
Mixed martial arts are currently banned because of Section 83.1 of the Criminal Code. Section 83.1 states that everyone who (a) engages as a principal in a prize fight, (b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight or (c) is present at a prize fight as a aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer, or reporter, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
That applies to all of Canada yet provinces such as Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia still host MMA events.
Over the past year, promoters have started hosting shows on Native Reservations throughout Ontario. Fighters such as Gary Goodridge, Dan Severn, and Eduardo Pamplona have been featured on cards hosted on sovereign land.
White feels confident the UFC can get something done saying, “This has been a successful sport now for almost 10 years. We’ve been a successful organization that can come in and put on a world-class sporting event. Why can’t we do it in Ontario? It makes no sense. It’s common sense that this is going to happen.”
It’ll be interesting to see if White and company can talk some sense into Hayashi and the Ontario Athletic Commission.