TORONTO - Now that the Ontario government has released its chokehold on mixed martial arts, Toronto fans are anxious to find out when the UFC is coming to town.
And one of the sport's top fighters, Georges "Rush" St. Pierre, is also chomping at the bit as he awaits the official announcement.
In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, the Quebec native said it would be "awesome" to be among the fighters in the lineup on that special night.
"I'm looking forward to fighting in Toronto one day, maybe at the Rogers Centre," St. Pierre, who's also known as GSP, said Sunday. "It would be fun to headline the card when it happens."
"I'd really like that," he added enthusiastically. "It would be a dream come true for me."
GSP is the reigning welterweight champ. His many accolades include being named Canadian athlete of the year in 2008 and Sports Illustrated's fighter of the year in 2009.
The 29-year-old said he was pumped to learn over the weekend that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty had lifted the ban on MMA, clearing the way for the UFC to stage events in the province once the details are hammered out.
"It's about time," St. Pierre said.
McGuinty has long been opposed to the violent sport. So fans, fighters and local businesses were ecstatic to learn the premier relented.
MMA's popularity exploded in Canada in recent years - some say the sport is second only to hockey.
There have so far only been four Ultimate Fighting Championship events held in Canada: Two in Montreal - in 2008 and 2009 - and one in Vancouver earlier this year. They were hugely successful.
It's estimated that allowing UFC in Ontario will bring $6 million annually to the economy.
GSP said he wouldn't be surprised if some day MMA surpasses hockey's popularity in Canada.
"Maybe I won't live to see that day, but who knows?" he said with a chuckle. "The progress the sport has made in the last 20 years is amazing."
GSP is one of the two coaches in the UFC's upcoming Ultimate Fighter 12, which begins next month. His next fight is expected to be in December against the television show's opposing coach, Josh Koscheck.
There have been rumours that the UFC's first Toronto event will be at the Rogers Centre in March. And some fans have suggested the UFC should have St. Pierre and Koscheck square off in the main event on the card.
But Tom Wright, the UFC's Canadian director of operations laid to rest both notions.
Wright is convinced the UFC should be able to hold an event in Toronto in 2011, but he said it's too soon to say when or where.
And he pointed out that it doesn't make sense to hold off the GSP-Koscheck fight.
However, Wright said the UFC will do all it can to include GSP on the Toronto card for his Canadian fans.
"But so much can happen between now and then," he pointed out.