|Ontario would need to be convinced that UFC is safe for the public and participants before it would make amendments to the Athletics Control Act. (QMI Agency/Jack Boland)
TORONTO -- Premier Dalton McGuinty has dealt a stunning blow in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's battle to come to Ontario.
"It's just not a priority for us," McGuinty said Wednesday. "We have other things on the go right now and we'll stay focused on those."
The premier's comments indicate that despite the incredible popularity of mixed martial arts in this province, Ontarians will have to continue to travel to Quebec or elsewhere if they want to see a live match.
The federal Criminal Code prohibits prizefighting but individual provinces can choose to exempt sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts.
According to a consumer services ministry spokesperson, Ontario would need to be convinced the UFC is safe for the public and participants before it would make amendments to the Athletics Control Act.
But while the government has been saying it continues to monitor the development of the sport, McGuinty appeared to shut the door on any changes in the near future.
Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that combines boxing, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing and wrestling. The UFC is the sport's largest promotion.
The UFC hosted an event in Montreal in April 2008. It was the promotion's fastest sellout ever and drew a crowd of 21,390.
The UFC is returning to Montreal in May, and will host an event in Vancouver in June.
President Dana White had previously expressed confidence the sport would get sanctioned in Ontario. He often talks about how Canada is one of the UFC's strongest markets.
"I never saw Canada coming," he recently told QMI Agency. "There are so many passionate fans and, not only that, a lot of talented people coming out of Canada in MMA."
"No matter what state I'm in, in the U.S., or what country I'm in, there are so many Canadian fans there. It's incredible," he continued.