Ontario’s wait-and-see stance on legalizing mixed martial arts could be costing the province millions of dollars.
According to an internal UFC economic study that offers a stunning view into the money generated by two recent UFC events – UFC Fan Expo, which took place July 10-11 in Las Vegas, and UFC 101, held Aug. 8 in Philadelphia – the economic impact the MMA company has on the cities it chooses as host sites is substantial.
Even a cursory glance at the data in the study indicates these events pack a massive monetary punch. Combined, the two UFC events generated more than US$105 million (all figures in U.S. dollars) for the local economies.
“We have to figure out how this is going to work out,” UFC fighter Frank Trigg said. “Ontario better hurry up and get on board, because if they don’t, they’ll be losing . . . millions of dollars.”
The two-day UFC Fan Expo, which was held in conjunction with the star-studded UFC 100, generated an estimated $93.7 million, including $76.6 million that had a direct impact on the Las Vegas economy. Additionally, 376 total jobs were created, with $13 million paid out in salaries and wages.
The single-day UFC 101 pay-per-view, which featured a main event of B.J. Penn facing Kenny Florian, generated $11.9 million, $7.7 million of which directly impacted Philadelphia. The event also saw $3.7 million paid out in salaries and wages, with 106 jobs created.
Demographic data indicates that roughly 77 per cent of the attendance for UFC 101 was made up of out-of-town visitors. Ontarians made up 2.5 per cent of ticket sales, travelling an average of 571 kilometres to see the show.
Additionally, the study shows that more than half the tourists attending UFC 101 had a household income of $80,000 or more – more than 40 per cent earn $100,000 or more.
So if the UFC has proven to bring money with it wherever it goes, and citizens of Ontario are willing to travel just to see the fights, does the Ontario Athletic Commission plan on reviewing its ban on the sport of MMA?
In short, no.
Responding to an email inquiry, the Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services, which oversees the Ontario Athletic Commission, indicated that it has no plans to revisit the issue any time soon.
“The Ontario government is aware of the growing popularity and increased interest in North America of professional Mixed Martial Arts events,” Issues and Media Relations Analyst Stephen Puddister said. “When it comes to any athletic event in Ontario, the safety of spectators and participants is a primary consideration.
“The government is monitoring this emerging sport. We are not moving to change regulations at this time.”
With the UFC holding two successful shows so far in Montreal, and Vancouver slated for a June 2010 event, industry professionals are left wondering why Ontario seems intent on keeping MMA promotions out.
“The way I look at it is, MMA in Ontario needs to be legalized as soon as possible,” MMA Connected host (Showdown) Joe Ferraro said to SLAM! Sports at June’s MMA Expo in Mississauga. “If you and I prevented our employers from millions of dollars, like what’s happening in Ontario…would we still have our jobs?”
UFC fighter Frank Trigg said the ban only encourages Ontario MMA fans to spend their money in the U.S.
“People in Toronto are going to go, ‘Well, if they’re not going to legalize it here, I’m gonna go drive the hour to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, the two and-a-half hours to Rochester, the three hours to Syracuse to watch it live and spend my hard earned Canadian dollars; I’ll go spend it in the States,” Trigg said. “But the reverse is also true. I live in Rochester; I have to drive eight hours to get to New York City or I can drive three hours to get to Toronto to watch an event – where am I going to go?
“Well, I’m going to take my hard earned American dollars, and I’m going to spend it up in Canada.”