Professional mixed martial arts could be a one-shot wonder in Vancouver.
When the City of Vancouver first voted in favour of allowing pro MMA in town, after relentless lobbying by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, many fans – and even promoters – thought the floodgates were open.
After UFC 115 on June 12, the thought of other organizations such as Strikeforce and Maximum Fighting Championship holding events in the Olympic city seemed like a distinct possibility.
Don’t count on it, says Vancouver Athletic Commission chairman Mirko Mladenovic.
“The City of Vancouver does not want to be in the sanctioning business,” the frustrated chairman said. “After the UFC, we’re going to be at a major impasse.”
Mladenovic says the cost of holding a professional MMA event in the city is “astronomically high” because of the insurance, taxes and other requirements the city demands from promoters.
The UFC, the world’s biggest MMA organization, may be in a position to meet those demands, but other promoters can’t.
And even with its huge appeal, sold-out event and dominance in the pay-per-view market, the UFC might not see much value coming back to Vancouver.
“The UFC isn’t going to make any money off this,” Mladenovic said bluntly.
UFC vice-president Marc Ratner was in Vancouver last week to nail down the final details for UFC 115 at GM Place.
And while he wouldn’t criticize the city, he hinted that the sport would be better off with a provincial commission like the one in Quebec.
“Every place we go to is a little bit different. The city makes you go through extra steps like indemnity issues. We’re willing to go along with it,” he said. “The city has plenty to do without being in the business of athletic commissions.”
Ratner said the UFC’s first priority is to change the Criminal Code in Ottawa to include MMA in its prizefighting exemption, and then he’d be willing to come back to B.C. and lobby for a provincial commission.
“We want a provincial athletic commission as they do in Quebec,” he said. “It is easier; you’re not dealing with Vancouver, and North Vancouver, and Burnaby and each city on its own.”
But while the city is running the show and demanding million to protect it from liabilities, fans will need to go elsewhere to see top talent.
“When I heard that Vancouver was allowing MMA I jumped on it,” said Mark Pavelich, the president of Edmonton-based Maximum Fighting Championship. “But it’s comical. I vowed never to go to a place that would make me go broke, and that’s what Vancouver is to me. I don’t have $12, $15 million just for insurance.”
One of the largest MMA organizations in North America, MFC boasts a TV deal with HDNet and features several high-profile fighters, including former-UFC standout Thales Leites.
Pavelich says he was willing to do four shows a year in Vancouver but has scrapped those plans.
Around the MMA world:
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem sent a message to MMA’s all-time greatest fighter by demolishing Brett Rogers in St. Louis Saturday night. “Ubereem” threw Rogers around like a ragdoll before pounding the contender out in the third minute of the first round. He then called out the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, who also beat Roger, though with much more difficulty, in his Strikeforce debut last year.