UFC setting up shop in Toronto

Former CFL commissioner Tom Wright has been hired by the UFC to open and run an office in Toronto....

Former CFL commissioner Tom Wright has been hired by the UFC to open and run an office in Toronto. (Greg Henkenhaf/QMI Agency)

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:29 PM ET

TORONTO – The UFC is coming to town – permanently.

Company president Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta announced the opening of the first Canadian UFC offices Tuesday, with former CFL commissioner Tom Wright heading up the Toronto branch of the mixed-martial-arts organization.

“After my family, the most important things – my passions ¬– are sports and my country,” Wright said during a press conference at the Rogers Centre. “The UFC has a very aggressive global expansion plan and it’s great to be a part of the second international office after London (England).”

White said he knew quickly that Wright, commissioner of the CFL from 2002 to 2006, was the right man for the job.

“His record speaks for itself,” White said, adding that Wright is a respected business and community leader who has also been president of Adidas Canada and Saloman North America. “He’s a great guy. He’s the guy to lead the charge up here.

“Look at his resumé – the guy’s a stud.”

Business will begin for the Toronto branch next month, but the UFC has yet to name a location for its Canadian headquarters. Wright will also be tasked with staffing the office, which is expected to open with roughly 15 employees.

Though MMA is not sanctioned in Ontario, Wright said lobbying the provincial government is his top priority.

“This is a process and it takes time,” Wright said. “It’s not always consistent time. Depending on the state or province it can take more time. But ultimately the goal is to make a commitment to the entire country and to build a business and brand here.

“We will continue to have those conversations (with the government) and ultimately it’s the best thing for our sport. We’re an organization that goes out and proactively wants to be regulated.”

Though the UFC expects to apply more pressure for the sanctioning of MMA, Fertitta said opening a Canadian office shouldn’t be interpreted as a statement towards the provincial government.

It’s about growing the culture of the sport in the Great White North.

“We have to continue to educate and over time we feel confident that Ontario will regulate mixed martial arts,” Fertitta said. “It’s just for the benefit of the athletes, as well. The fact is there are potentially events going on right now that are unregulated and the athletes aren’t going through the required medical testing.

“One of the other things that Tom’s going to be in charge of is continuing to develop Canadian talent. Obviously, we’ve had a tremendous amount of success with the fighters we have from Canada so far. But we think that there’s a deeper pool. We want more young men to have the opportunity to become UFC fighters and have long careers with us.”


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