UFC could be headed to Cowtown

UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright announces the first Ontario fight on April 30, 2011...

UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright announces the first Ontario fight on April 30, 2011 in Toronto. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI AGENCY)

Jose Rodriguez, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:27 PM ET

Vancouver's loss could be Calgary's gain.

Sources tell QMI AGENCY very preliminary meetings have taken place between UFC brass and potential Calgary hosts to bring an event to Cowtown in the near future.

At the UFC 140 press conference to officially announce the fight club's return to Toronto earlier this week, director of Canadian operations Tom Wright said Vancouver -- which hosted UFC 115 and 131 -- was out of the picture for the coming year.

Vancouver allowed a test period for mixed martial arts, but in the two years since, only the UFC has held events there. Wright said insurance and indemnification costs associated with hosting a card in Vancouver have driven smaller promotions away. He said the UFC will return to the West Coast city, but not in the coming year.

Wright added the UFC still plans on hosting three events in Canada in 2012 and pay-per-views in Toronto and Montreal are all but guaranteed.

He also pointed to a "surprise" third Canadian city.

Early indicators would point to Calgary.

It is the largest Canadian market yet to host an event and 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of the world famous Calgary Stampede -- a week of festivities highlighted by major concerts and other big-scale entertainment events.

The city has successfully hosted MMA events for years and has a well-established sanctioning system.

In the Saddledome, the UFC would have access to a 17,000-plus venue at a time when no other major sports are fighting for Saturday night playing time.

While early speculation makes Calgary a frontrunner, Wright has also said the UFC has been kicking tires in Atlantic Canada for a potential Fight Night event.

Unlike the larger pay-per-views, Fight Nights are held in smaller venues with lesser-name fighters and available on free TV.

But Calgary isn't the only city that makes sense for a pay-per-view.

Edmonton has also shown it can hold its own when it comes to mixed martial arts, playing host to a successful World Extreme Cagefighting event when the organization was still in existence and owned by the UFC.

Edmonton is also home to Canada's largest MMA promotion -- the Maximum Fighting Championship.

Winnipeg has a proud fighting history with fighters like Joe Doerksen and Krzysztof Soszynski calling Manitoba's capital home and the renewed buzz around sport with the Winnipeg Jets doesn't hurt, so it may have an outside chance.

Ottawa -- where the UFC recently trotted out top Canadian fighters to ask that Criminal Code provisions around combat sports be changed so that places like Saskatchewan can sanction the sport without fear -- may also be a contender.

Saskatchewan is out due to its lack of a sanctioning body.

But if there were Vegas odds on the next virgin Canadian city to host a UFC event, the smart money would be on Calgary.


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