Next stop: T.O.?

JOSE RODRIGUEZ -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

MONTREAL -- UFC boss Dana White wants to put Toronto on notice.

"The response to this fight has been so incredible, we will definitely return to Canada, and we would like to try to have the next event in Toronto," White told Sun Media yesterday hours before UFC 83.

All 22,000 seats at the Bell Centre sold out minutes after they went on sale.

But there is one monumental hurdle in White's plan to bring the carnival of carnage to Canada's largest province.

Ontario remains Canada's largest holdout in sanctioning mixed-martial-arts, and the chairman of that province's athletic commission, Ken Hayashi, has not been open to changing the rules.

UFC vice-president Marc Ratner -- whose duties include pushing to get MMA sanctioned in places where it is still illegal -- invited Hayashi to attend last night's fights as his guest. Hayashi refused to attend, saying it would be wrong for him to attend an event that isn't sanctioned in his own jurisdiction.

He has been steadfast in his refusal to entertain the idea of legitimizing the sport, saying once that perhaps if it cut its teeth at the amateur level for a few years, full sanctioning may be considered.

Ratner says Ontario is high on the UFC's to-do list and plans to set up meetings soon with Hayashi to make a case for sanctioning sooner rather than later.

"It has a proven record as a safe sport, and, as you can see here in Montreal, there is huge economic benefit to hosting an event," Ratner said.

John Boland of Toronto said sanctioning the sport in Ontario would save him hundreds of dollars in gas.

"I don't want to travel hours by car to come see it in Montreal," said Boland. "I want to see it in Ontario."

No matter how the situation in the neighbouring province plays out, Quebec has fully embraced the world's largest fight club with fans flying in from Europe, the U.S. and nearly every major Canadian city.


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