The city took its lumps in bringing the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s travelling roadshow to Vancouver and may be too beat up to try it again.
The future of mixed martial arts in Vancouver has been a hot-button issue since the sport was tentatively approved on a two-year trial basis.
“Astronomical” insurance costs demanded by the city – to protect it from any liabilities and indemnities – caused the UFC to look at alternative options for the June 12 event at GM Place before an 11th hour deal was struck between the organization and the city.
Vancouver Athletic Commission chair Mirko Mladenovic said the costs associated with running a professional MMA event in the city is so high, not even the UFC – by far the sport’s biggest organization – would make any money off it.
Insurance alone for UFC 115 is said to be in the region of $12 million.
Even if UFC 115 is a resounding success and the city’s legal concerns prove unfounded, Coun. Kerry Jang said the city won’t ease up on promoters until the sport is legalized provincially or federally.
“The city has been backed into a corner,” Jang told 24 hours Monday. “We have no choice but to demand high insurance, because we’re not protected by the province like Montreal is. We’ve done everything we can to support MMA in the city.”
So does that mean UFC 115 could be the last professional MMA event in the city’s immediate future?
“I think that’s fair to say,” Jang said bluntly. “If the UFC wants to come back, they should be working with the provincial and federal governments.”
Last month, the UFC opened a Canadian headquarters in Toronto, led by ex-CFL commissioner Tom Wright, for the sole purpose of lobbying the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to allow mixed martial arts to be exempt from prize fighting legislation.
UFC vice-president Marc Ratner told 24 hours in May that once the federal legislation is fixed, he’s willing to advocate for a provincial sanctioning body in B.C.
“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.”