Mayor Jim Watson says Ottawa’s doors are open to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Now it will just take a promoter to woo the massive mixed martial arts event to the nation’s capital.
“We wouldn’t really have a role in attracting something like that, it’s up to the UFC and I guess it’s very competitive to get a UFC fight like they did in Toronto,” Watson said Tuesday.
Ontario hosted its first UFC event in Toronto Saturday, attracting more than 50,000 fans to the Rogers Centre after the Ontario government started allowing professional MMA events this year.
Watson has made tourism and economic development a priority for this term of council.
“I personally wouldn’t go see a UFC fight. It’s not my thing, but obviously it’s very popular amongst a large segment of the population and now that the province has allowed it to take place in Ontario I’m sure there’s an entrepreneur out there who is going try and get matches here in Ottawa,” he said.
One man who sees himself as that entrepreneur is Wreck MMA president Nick Castiglia, who is promoting a show of his own Friday night at Casino Lac Leamy.
“I’ve spoken with the UFC in the past about trying to work together on another event and they weren’t too interested, but my door is always open to them. If they want to work together for Ottawa and I just help promote the show with them because I know the local scene I’d be more than happy to do that.”
Castiglia said the first UFC show in Ottawa would sell out Scotiabank Place and then some.
Team Bushido MMA Fitness Centre owner Nabil “The Thrill” Khatib, who will be headlining Castiglia’s card Friday, said he’s tried to reach UFC owner Dana White about promoting a UFC card as well.
“It’ll definitely be popular once it gets here, but I think they may have to take a bite in the pants the first time,” he said, noting that Ottawa is a more conservative city than Montreal and Toronto.
That said, if he could promote a card headed by Canadian UFC hero Georges St-Pierre the sky would be the limit.
“People would be driving here from Toronto and Montreal to see Georges fight here, for sure. That wouldn’t be an issue.”
UFC vice-president Marc Ratner said it’s simply a matter of time.
“We know we’d do well in Ottawa,” he said Tuesday. “But we have shows coming up in Vancouver, Las Vegas, Brazil. We have a certain number of shows, but we know we’d do well in Ottawa and we hope to be there in the future.”
— With files from Jon Willing