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Premier McGuinty Says No MMA In Ontario

Over the past year or so, Canada has dealt with a struggling economy that saw the loss of many jobs and the downsizing and closing of many businesses. With the nation now seeing the beginnings of an economic recovery, there are many citizens of the country who feel as if more should be done by the government to supply new jobs.

And even though the recession has greatly affected the spending habits of Canadians, many of them still have found ways to enjoy themselves. Among the many sources of entertainment that has becoming increasingly popular in recent years is mixed martial arts, or MMA. Popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, MMA is becoming one of the most watched sports in the world.

With a nation still looking to overcome its financial hardships, one would think that perhaps having Canada host more of these increasingly successful MMA events would only help the economy. This is the mindset of UFC president Dana White who has been very successful with presenting a couple of UFC pay-per-view events in Montreal, Quebec over the past few years.

Mixed martial arts, however, is still not legalized in the province of Ontario. Many have still not become accustomed to what they consider the “barbarity” of the sport. The most significant of those who oppose the legalization of MMA in Ontario is the man who matters most, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

As sports reporter, Morgan Campbell reports in today’s edition of The Toronto Star, McGuinty does not see it as a priority to legalize the sport in his province. “It’s just not a priority for us,” said McGuinty, “We have other things on the go right now, and we’ll stay focused on those.”

And while the obvious entertainment value for Ontario fight fans may be a reason to bring MMA to Ontario, the bigger issue of the major economic impact it could have for the province should not be overlooked. Sports related websites have been buzzing recently about the millions of dollars that UFC events have helped to pump into the Canadian economy since it ran its UFC 87 and UFC 93 events in Montreal.

Writes Campbell: “Last year, the UFC hired the law firm of Cassels Brock and Blackwell to lobby the provincial government, and the organization estimates a UFC event in Toronto would generate $4 million in revenue for the provincial government.”

According to SportsTalkBuzz.com, Dana White believes that Canada could easily host two UFC events per year based on the success of the previous two. The events in Montreal were two of UFC’s best attended events. Part of the reason for MMA’s success in Canada comes at the hands of the many competitors who are Canadian, most notably UFC’s Welterweight Champion, Georges St-Pierre.

Even with all of this, McGuinty still does not yet see a need for Ontario to host a mixed martial arts event. Said UFC’s vice-president of government and regulatory affairs, Marc Ratner: “We respect the fact the Premier has indicated that MMA regulation is not a top priority, however, we are confident that our efforts in educating Canadian officials including members of the provincial cabinet will eventually result in regulation of the sport in Ontario.”

Ontario and New York are the two remaining major North American markets where the sport has not yet been legalized. Entertainment value aside, the legalization of the sport in Ontario may provide the province with the economic boost it so sorely needs. UFC is not discouraged though. White contends that Ontario will legalize MMA in 2010. The fight to have this happen is apparently still on.

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