White talks tough on Ontario

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

If Dana White were a politician, they'd throw him in jail.

They'd have to. This is a man with power and influence, seeking total world domination.

However, he's a sports guy, and it's his mission in life to establish the UFC brand of mixed martial arts as the most popular and most lucrative sport on the planet.

Yes, bigger than the NFL. Bigger than European soccer.

And if you think that's ridiculous, well, this is the guy, a former aerobic instructor and college dropout, who was roundly derided in 2001 when he and his partners rescued Ultimate Fighting Champion from near bankruptcy. The UFC now generates hundreds of millions a year in revenues with programming shown in 36 countries and counting, including the sold-out UFC 97 this Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

The way White sees it, it's human nature to fight -- whether it's countries with tanks or two guys in a bar. Fighting, he said, is the most natural of all human endeavours. And violence sells.

"Think about this," the Manchester, Conn., native said yesterday in an interview with Sun Media. "In the United States, there's nothing bigger than the NFL. Up here, hockey's huge. Nobody gives a s--- about hockey down in the United States and they don't give a s--- about hockey in England either. In England, they like cricket. And it goes on and on. But you take two guys, put them in an octagon and they can use any martial art they want, that transcends all cultural barriers, all language barriers. I don't give a f--- what country you're from, what colour you are, what language you speak, at the end of the day, we're all human beings, and we like fighting. It's in our DNA. It doesn't have to be explained."

What White -- who drops F- and S-bombs with casual regularity and often finishes his sentences with "'kay?," sort of the New England version of "eh" -- can't explain is why the Ontario government still resists professional mixed martial arts.

The popularity is there, both in terms of the live gate and pay-per-view hits. UFC 97 sold out in a matter of minutes, as did the last event held at the Bell Centre, UFC 83. The pay-per-view numbers aren't released in Canada, but a spokesperson at Toronto-based Viewers Choice Pay Per View told Sun Media that UFC is, by far, the biggest property it has.

White said Ontario, and the Toronto area in particular, has one of biggest fan bases in the world. Still, the Ontario Athletics Commission refuses to sanction the sport -- insisting that it contravenes section 83 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Basically, it's a matter of interpretation. Other provinces don't interpret MMA as an illegal activity.

White is more determined than ever to lobby the provincial and federal governments until the sport is given the green light in Ontario.

"I promise it's going to happen," he said. "There are three places on our radar. We're getting into Massachusetts, we're hoping to do an event there in November. New York we're hoping to get done in the first of the year (2010), and Toronto.

"We just did a study on the economic impact we have on a city when we go there, it's astronomical," he said. "When we were in Columbus, Ohio, we were there at the same time as the Arnold (Sports Festival), it was a $43 million US impact on the city.

"Especially in these hard economic times, why would you not want it?" he said. "How are you going to tell a city that we're not going to bring this massive event here where everybody can benefit and make money off it. In Montreal, the ticket tax is a million f------- dollars. Just the ticket tax alone. We need to come to Ontario."


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