A contingent from the UFC is in Quebec to meet today with officials from the government agency that oversees combat sports. This is an attempt on both parts to salvage UFC 97, which is scheduled to take place at the Bell Centre in Montreal April 18.
Dana White said in a statement to the Canadian Press that UFC 97 sold out faster than last year’s UFC 83 event, which featured a main event of Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra for the UFC welterweight title. White sounded confident that things will go on as planned.
The issue at hand is that the unified MMA rules do not mesh with the “mixed boxing” rules that are currently in place in Quebec. Monday brought a sense of optimism when an official from Quebec stated that there is a strong desire on both parts to make things work. He did stress that the UFC may need to agree to some sort of accommodation of the rules.
Rejean Theriault, who is the communications director for the commission, said he would not be able to comment any further until he gave the UFC an opportunity to state their case. Theriault went on to say that the rules have never changed but the enforcement has. It was only brought to their attention that the previous regime had not been enforcing the provincial regulations.
Quebec regulations do not allow the use of elbows or knee strikes. To hit an opponent with a bent knee or bent elbow is considered a foul. Further rules state that once a fighter is knocked down the referee must send his opponent to a neutral corner like they do in boxing. Judo type throws are also forbidden. “Using any other part of the body other than the hands, arsm, feet or legs to knock an make an opponent fall” is illegal.
Also at issue is the dimensions of the octagon. Quebec regulations say that the cage can not be bigger than 24 feet between two facing corners. The Octagon is 30 feet.
None of these issues were ever brought to light when the UFC held UFC 83 last April which was extremely successful. TKO which has since gone out of business also used the unified rules of MMA when holding events in most jurisdictions that sanction the sport.
Theriault said that once it was discovered that the rules were not being applied properly they informed all promoters including the UFC that they had to follow their rules. One main concern of the province is the threat of a lawsuit by a fighter who was injured in afight where the rules were not properly followed.
During the pre-sale for UFC 97, over 13,000 tickets were sold in just five hours. It is believed that the remaining tickets were sold out before going on sale to the public last Saturday. Last year’s show featuring Montreal’s own St. Pierre drew a sell-out crowd of 20,011 which set a record for not only the UFC but for all mixed martial arts shows in North America. UFC 83 was the first event held in Canada by the organization and sold out within one minute.
A major reason that the commission is beginning to enforce its rules is due to the controversy surrounding last Friday’s Strikebox show. That event made an attempt at using a variation of the unified MMA rules which excluded the ground game. Theriault denied that this was the case saying that the problems had started before this event.
The Quebec boxing commission is overseen by the Regie des Alcools, des courses et des jeux, which is a Quebec agency that regulates alcohol, gaming and combat sports.
It is in the best interest of the commission to approve this event as UFC 83 had a live gate of over $5 million not including whatever money is generated in pay-per-view sales. At $44.99, the UFC can expect to make millions more from their PPV audience. They also have to take into account the money brought in by tourists who are in town specifically for this event.