March 24, 2010
Fighting chance in Ontario?UFC goes toe-to-toe with province
By CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency
TORONTO -- The UFC's head honcho wowed mixed martial arts fans at the Eaton Centre Tuesday, but he has yet to win over Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Even though Toronto's Ultimate Fighting Championship fanbase is among the largest in North America, McGuinty maintained lifting the province's ban on the sport just isn't on the top of his list.
"If I was to knock on 1,000 Ontario family doors and ask them for their top three concerns, I would be surprised if anyone said, 'You know on my top three is we've got to get this new mixed martial arts started in Ontario. That's going to mean a lot to me and my family and our future together,'" McGuinty said.
"It's just not a priority for our families, it's not a priority to me."
McGuinty made the comment shortly before hundreds of enthusiastic MMA fans gathered at the Eaton Centre to meet UFC president Dana White. White was here to promote UFC 111 -- to be held in New Jersey Saturday -- but what everyone really wanted to know was when the UFC was coming to Toronto.
White said that while bringing the wildly popular sport to Ontario may not be a priority for McGuinty, it ranks high for his organization.
"Obviously, Canada is a huge market for us," White said. "(But) it's tough to change laws and that's why this thing is taking so long."
"It's going to take time. And I'm willing to put in the time."
White said he fully understands McGuinty has bigger concerns. But he believes the fact the premier is even talking about the UFC is reason for optimism.
Many fans at the Eaton Centre expressed frustration.
"We're getting closer and closer and yet it seems so far (away) until we get sanctioned here," Paul Pittman, 26, said. "But it doesn't matter to me because I'll go to Montreal to watch it."
UFC 83 in April 2008 and UFC 97 in February 2009 were held before capacity crowds at Montreal's Bell Centre.
"I know it will happen soon," an excited Sasha Rosen said after getting autographs from the two Canadian fighters, Sam Stout, from London, and Krzystof Soszynski, from Winnipeg.
-- With files from Jonathan Jenkins