MMA no longer DOA in Ontario

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

TORONTO - The last time British fight promoter Robert Waterman organized a card in Ontario, he was driven to a state of frantic exasperation.

Now, as Waterman prepares for his second kick at the can, his state of mind has slightly improved.

Waterman’s no longer ready to “howl at the moon”, as a Toronto Sun article suggested on Nov. 1, 2010, but he’s still exhausted and on edge.

His card at Casino Rama on Saturday night — MMA: The Reckoning — will be the first pro MMA show ever held in Ontario.

“I am bullish right now,” Waterman said. “As with any experience, there’s a roller coaster. There are moments when you’re high, and there are moments when you’re low. When you spoke to me the last time, you caught me at a very low moment. Had you caught me (Wednesday) afternoon (this week), I think you would have had me at another low moment. But talking to me now, it’s a slightly better moment.”

Promoting a professional fight card in Ontario — be it boxing or MMA — is never easy, but Waterman said the notorious Ontario athletics commission — led by rules and regulations guru Ken Hayashi — seems to be easing up in terms of not regulating promoters to death.

“This is my second show under Ken and I found him more cooperative,” Waterman said. “Maybe it’s because he’s got more resources in his office.”

That’s true. After MMA was finally made legal in Ontario this year, Hayashi was able to hire an assistant. The consensus in fight circles is, the commission has become more cooperative with promoters because the sport is expected to bring in lots of money for the province.

Money, it seems, talks.

The big event of the year, of course, is UFC 129 on April 30 at the Rogers Centre — featuring welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre of Montreal against American Jake Shields.

These are exciting times for MMA fans in Ontario, but the situation, at least for promoters, is still far from ideal.

Promoters claim that organizing boxing and MMA events is tougher in Ontario than nearly anywhere else — particularly in terms of pre-fight medicals and matchmaking.

For instance: In boxing, Hayashi has the final say when it comes to what fighters will be used, and all he has to do is check the boxrec.com website to get completely up-to-date records.

But MMA is a different story, and that’s caused some headaches for Waterman.

“For mixed martial arts, the commission is guided by a website called mixedmartialarts.com,” said Waterman. “The problem with (that site) is that its records are often not up to date for people outside of North America — and even with some fighters in North America. A lot of fighters aren’t there in any way, shape or form. And (the website’s) not particularly responsive to getting the records changed, and the commission here isn’t interested in a record that’s not on that website.

“So you can suggest a fight ... and one guy will be 6-1 and one will be 7-1, which looks good,” Waterman continued. “But on the mixed martial arts site, one fighter will be 6-1 and the other fighter will be 1-0. That’s come up (this week).

“We had to get the record (of a fighter) changed, and Ken won’t approve the fight until the record gets changed,” he said. “That’s not Ken’s fault, that’s the website’s problems. But then the website can take a week or two to get changed, and by the time the website got changed, we lost the fighter.”

Despite that problem, Saturday’s card at Rama will feature a full eight bouts including Jordan Mein of Lethbridge, Alta., facing Josh Burkman, 21-8 of Salt Lake City in the main event.

“That should be a cracking fight,” said Waterman. “I think that’s a main event that could grace any world class mixed martial arts contest.”

Waterman certainly has a point in terms of MMA records being somewhat questionable. Mein’s record, for instance, is listed as 14-5 on the Casino Rama press release. On the mixedmartialarts.com website, it’s 17-5, and on the Sherdog website (another prominent MMA website) it’s 20-7.

The co-main event Saturday will have Chris Horodecki of London, Ont., (16-3) facing American David Castillo, 10-2.

Horodecki, 23, is coached by noted MMA trainer Shawn Tompkins and is thrilled to be fighting in his home province as a pro for the first time.

“This is huge,” the Polish born fighter said. “This is going to be surreal. I’m finally fighting in front of my friends and my family and I’ll use that as a motivating force. It’s fueling me. I want to make this the most memorable card ever.”

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