Next weekend, the UFC is finally scheduled to arrive in Toronto, Ontario, in what will no doubt be one the biggest and most spectacular events ever to go down in the history of the promotion, not to mention, Canada.
With 55,000 fans expected to be live in attendance at the Rogers Centre (SkyDome), ticket sales alone for UFC 129 have single-handedly smashed all previous event records (called it!). But I still believe that the enormous ticket sales only provide a very small indicator as to just how massive and meaningful this groundbreaking “celebration” is truly going to be.
Why are Ontario fight fans so ecstatic for the UFC?
Well, I’ll tell you one thing—it has a lot less to do with Georges St-Pierre being on the fight card than you might think.
And please don’t get me wrong—GSP is a great guy and a great fighter, and every time he steps into the Octagon, he makes millions of people proud to be Canadian, but this event holds significantly more meaning than just from the perspective of the fights themselves.
Looking back at this time last year, the legalization of mixed martial arts in Ontario was nothing more than a complicated pipe dream by a small group of rebellious, overgrown teenagers (I prefer the term “man-child” myself). In fact, I can vividly recall attending MMA Day at Queen’s Park, which is located in busy, downtown Toronto, on what was a crappy, rain-filled Saturday afternoon (Victoria Day weekend nonetheless).
This event provided the exact opportunity that all Ontario fight fans had been waiting for. Finally, a chance to showcase to all local politicians (and the world), just how important MMA was to the vast majority of Ontario residents who were consistently spending millions of dollars each year on a sport (out of province, of course) that had captivated their love unlike any other.
Too bad hardly anyone showed up.
At a glimpse, this was not the impressive turnout that the organizers had hoped for, but as the weather started to clear up, a lot more fans and supporters began to creep in. And despite the smaller audience, the guest speakers all did an incredible job in explaining why the legalization of MMA was extremely important, not only to them, but to the Province as a whole.
In fact, two notable UFC 129 competitors, Mark Hominick and Sean Pierson, were both in attendance that day, and openly shared the true significance behind what it would mean for them to be able to fight in front of their home crowd in Ontario.
“Growing up from a wrestling background, my parents never missed a wrestling match for about 10 years straight. I started wrestling in grade four, and wrestled all the way through the University level. My parents were at every match, all the time.
“I look at my career now as a pro fighter and things are completely opposite. I, myself, am just looking for the opportunity to have my family actually see me compete. I haven’t had my family actually be able to show up live to an event yet, because I’ve never fought in Ontario. I guess I’m being a bit selfish, but I want them to see what I do now, and how much I have grown as an athlete, and how much I respect what they have done for me in the past.
“Not being legal in Ontario has made this a tough sport to grow up in.
“The profile of me as a fighter is—I work a full-time job, I’m a father, I’m a husband, and without the support of MMA in Ontario, it’s made it tough to be a grassroots fighter growing up. My colleagues will all contest that on the lower levels, we all have to work other jobs.
“I’m at a time in my life right now where first and foremost, I have to make sure that I take care of my family. I can’t base my career off of hopes and dreams all of the time. I have to make sure that my family and my son are taken care of first, and then my career as a fighter is taken care of second.
“Without the support in Ontario that we’re now getting in, with everybody here, I almost want to tear up—but feeling that it could be legalized in Ontario in the near future makes it so that guys like myself and upcoming fighters throughout the system, will be able to follow a dream and get better support from their community.”
“It’s an honour to speak on behalf of the MMA community at this event and it proves that the love and passion that we all have for this sport is alive and present in all of us. As a professional Mixed Martial Arts competitor for the last 10 years, I would just like to state that MMA has instilled the work ethic, character, and overall man that I am today.
“MMA contains some of the finest, most passionate, athletically gifted athletes in the world with Ontario holding many of these. Due to our Provincial government’s viewpoint and rather ‘neglection’ of the sport, it still remains at a grassroots level in the Province, as opposed to a National and International level that I believe that it should be on—and deserves to be on.
“MMA deserves to be showcased in a sanctioned, regulated, taxed environment in our Province, the same that has been shown proven and so successful in Quebec, Alberta, and soon B.C. in the coming month.
“As an athlete and business owner, the withholding of sanctioning MMA in Ontario hinders my financial well-doing with such aspects of competing, sponsorship, limitation of promotion, as well as, notoriety as an ambassador to the sport.
“I stand here, a proud member of the Mixed Martial Arts Community asking for acceptance, sanctioning, and promotion of the sport that I truly love.”
To read what the other guest speakers had to say, please click here.
It’s amazing how rapidly things can change in just over a year. Although the consensus at the time was that it was really just a matter of time before MMA would be legalized, nothing was for certain, and it was sometimes difficult not to get discouraged, especially when our political leaders were all going on record in the media proclaiming that MMA was on the bottom of their priority list.
But then again—money talks!
Despite the fact that Ontario has already been host to two other major events this year (MFC in Windsor being the more recent), nothing can compare to having the largest organization in the world setting up in your backyard.
Eat your heart out, New York!
[Just kidding, your time will come.]
These are my opinions. If you don’t like them…I have others. Check them out at www.mrjamesryan.com
Desolate Warrior is my new self-published book, which is set to be released at Midnight on April 30, 2011 via the Internet (Lulu.com), immediately following the UFC 129 event. Take my word for it…you won’t want to miss it. I plan on tearing the lid off of this can, and I’m going to use the claw end of my hammer to do it (I know…I know…very “un-James-like”).
For more information on the life and struggles of former Brazilian Olympic boxer and professional MMA fighter, Will Ribeiro, please visit www.desolatewarrior.com
“Controversy is only dreaded by the advocates of error.”—Benjamin Rush