This Saturday, Montreal native Georges St-Pierre will defend his Welterweight Championship against Josh Koscheck at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec during UFC 124. Today, it was discovered that the event will mark the final time that mixed martial arts fans from Ontario will be forced to leave the province in order to watch a live event showcasing the sport.
Today, it was announced that UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) will present UFC 131 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The announcement marks a landmark achievement in the history of the sport which was considered illegal until this past August when Dalton McGuinty’s provincial government finally gave in to the fans.
In actuality, McGuinty likely gave in to the idea that legalizing the increasingly-popular sport would help pump millions of dollars into the provincial economy. Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is hugely popular in Canada especially with Canadian athletes like St-Pierre being such successful representatives of the sport.
Back in February, we blogged about McGuinty’s view about legalizing MMA in Ontario, as he insisted it was “not a priority”. What a difference less than a year makes! Don Peat and Irene Thomaidis of The Toronto Sun report that UFC held a media conference today at the Air Canada Centre to announce Ontario’s first-ever MMA event.
As mentioned in previous blogs about this continuing story, “The provincial government expects that a major UFC event in Ontario would draw up to 30,000 fans and generate up to $6 million for the local economy, including cash from hotel rooms rentals, restaurant meal expenditures and retail purchases.”
Dana White, UFC’s president, has commented in the past that he is confident that UFC will be able to break attendance records at Rogers Centre, far exceeding the estimation of 30,000. Currently, World Wrestling Entertainment holds the record for largest paid attendance at 68,237 on March 17, 2002 for WrestleMania X8.
Although no fights have been announced for the UFC 131 card set for the end of April, it is believed that the WWE attendance numbers will be challenged as mixed martial arts has slowly but surely taken over professional wrestling’s popularity. New Toronto mayor, Rob Ford welcomed the UFC announcement today.
Write Peat and Thomaidis: “As a mayoral candidate, Ford vowed in May that if he was elected mayor, he would welcome and encourage the UFC and other MMA organizations to do business in Toronto and do everything to convince Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government that it would be, in his words, a ‘win, win for everybody.’”