Yes, you read that right! We're way past April 1st, so this is not a joke!
First the background, it is a known fact that the UFC is salivating at the prospects of running a show in Toronto. Last week in Montreal, Dana White was so sure of it, that he pretty much promised GSP vs Anderson Silva in December in Toronto. Back, in December 2008, UFC President Dana White said "Toronto is next", with the Rogers Centre a possible venue. It is estimated that over 40% of the tickets holder to the UFC 83 and UFC 97 are from Ontario with the majority coming from the GTA. There has been discussion of using the Rogers Centre, I think it is a lofty goal but possible. I'd love to beat the attendance record set by the WWE in 1990 (67678 fans).
The Ontario economy could also benefit from a boost to its tourism trade, it is estimated that the windfalls from a UFC event are in the range of $6 to $8 million for a 5 hour show (3 hour PPV). Many have argued that angle to bring the UFC to Ontario. This is only for one event, you can bet that if it’s that successful, the UFC could be in Toronto maybe twice per year! Legalizing MMA would also allow other MMA promotions to develop in Ontario, not just with Iroquois MMA (Iroquois MMA could not be reached for comments). I applaud the efforts accomplished by Iroquois MMA, but it has been done in a grey area, and we do want full regulation and medical supervision in Ontario.
It’s always been thought that the reason we could not get MMA in Ontario was because of Ken Hayashi and his organization's interpretation of the Canadian Criminal Code Section 83.1 which if anyone reads, can be interpreted in many ways, depending on which lawyer you talk to. Ken Hayashi has also been cited as being weary of facing a lawsuit from the Canadian government if he sanctioned MMA. This is obviously a weak argument as many provinces have been running MMA for years without any Federal interventions. Sarbjit Kaur, senior communication adviser to the minister of Small Business and Consumer Services, says "Section 83 and all of that is not really the crux of it, for us.". There is also the problem of a $100 million dollar lawsuit that was filed last summer hanging above Ken’s head.
All these probably are contributing factors, but as it turns, Ontario is more concerned about liabilities, what if something occurred in a non-sanctioned event? There have been underground events or backyard events. Iroquois MMA is in a grey area, but what if something happened at one of those events? Who would foot the medical bill and perhaps even lawsuits? Ken Hayashi has said before, and he is entirely correct, “Those guys are taking a big chance with putting on these shows. If someone gets seriously hurt there will be serious liability issues for those connected with the event and it will set the sport back several years in Ontario. Especially if it’s found that they’ve not done the due diligence that other professional athletic commissions are doing”. Thus the need for the Ontario Athletic Commission to sanction MMA events, from having Ontario judges ready (certified perhaps), to standardized medical testing (CAT scans, EEGs, and full blood work for Hep B, Hep C and HIV) for events.
So, before the end of May, I am told that legislation will be tabled at Queen’s Park paving the way for MMA to be legalized in Ontario. Now, don’t get overly excited, as the UFC will not be coming here next week. We all know how fast the Ontario government works. I still remember promises of beer coming in corner stores, but I digress. From what I have heard, it may take up to two years before the OAC is ready for sanctioning MMA events. But we will have them!!! And the other side, is I’m sure the UFC will be happy to lend a hand moving things along once the legislation is tabled.
In the end, I don’t want to forget to thank the many people that have worked on this case for over ten years! We know who you are and your work is appreciated.
In the meantime, rejoice, go train, legal MMA is coming to Ontario!