Thursday, December 17, 2009

Canadian MMA Landscape Could Change Today

While the upcoming Olympics and the on-ice activities of the Canucks consistently garner the biggest headlines in the Vancouver sports scene, there could be a very important little story tucked away in the Sports pages tomorrow morning.

Vancouver City Council will meet today to vote on Mixed Martial Arts regulations that could pave the way for the UFC to hold an event in a second Canadian city, following in the highly-successful footsteps of previous events in Montreal.

Today's vote could potentially carry more weight than simply opening the third largest market in Canada; getting through Vancouver City Council could serve as a catalyst for similar legislation to be passed in Ontario, giving Toronto the opportunity to become a regular home for major Mixed Martial Arts competition as well.

As always, there are councillors who are voicing their opposition to the sport, citing both old and new concerns, the most vocal in the media being David Cadman.

The long-time Vancouver councillor asked, "Is dog fighting a sport? Is bullfighting a sport? Is cockfighting a sport," when he spoke with CTV British Columbia following successfully held amateur events in the city at the end of November.

Firstly, one would hope that the honorable councillor from Vancouver can differentiate between two human beings with cognitive reasoning skills and free will entering a cage by choice, and animals being pitted against each other at the decision of their owners and/or event organizers.

It's not as if Dana White houses the entire UFC roster in a collection of cages in the basement of his Las Vegas house...

Mr. Cadman's second concern was the effects such events would have on the youth of Vancouver once the event ends and the bars fill with fight fans:

Clearly a bunch of testosterone-pumped young people coming out of a fight like that and going into the bars is a risk and the police recognize that as a risk

While there is certainly some underlying merit to councillor Cadman's concern, the same worry about "testosterone-pumped young people" can be applied to a stirring Canucks win, or a regular Friday or Saturday night to some extent as well.

Perhaps instead of being concerned with what could result from fight fans leaving an event, Mr. Cadman and his fellow councillors should turn their efforts towards the numerous gang-related murders and violent acts that have taken place in the city this year.

Additionally, maybe Mr. Cadman could give the youth of Vancouver - and MMA fans worldwide - a shred of credit, as there is little evidence in support of their concerns regarding spectator violence following Mixed Martial Arts events.

Shifting gears to the more positive side of this story, a successful vote in Vancouver will be an important move for the Mixed Martial Arts community of both British Columbia and Canada as a whole.

While promotions such as Armageddon Fighting Championships (AFC) and King of the Cage have had success holding events on Vancouver Island, breaking into the Lower Mainland would not only help the island-based promotions, but also increase the exposure for the sport as a whole.

Dana White has previously stated that Vancouver is a target destination for the UFC, and General Motors (GM) Place is already tentatively booked for a June 2010 date with the sport's largest promotion.

The UFC is so keen on breaking this market that both Assistant General Counsel Mike Mersch and Executive VP and General Counsel Lawrence Epstein will be in attendance for today's council meeting.

Adding Vancouver to the mix would leave only Canada's largest city out of the Mixed Martial Arts loop, and perhaps seeing the success of previous events in Montreal, as well as Vancouver's decision to move forward will encourage Toronto to do the same.

Breaking into two more of the biggest markets in Canada would force coverage and understanding of the sport to increase and improve.

Media outlets could no longer ignore the fastest growing sport in the world when events are being held in their backyards, while misinformed councillors like David Cadman would get to see firsthand that his worries about escalated violence from "testosterone-pumped young people" are unfounded and the sport is more about artistry, honor and respect than producing a brutal spectacle.

The Great White North is already home to one of the greatest Mixed Martial Arts in the sport today, and hosted two of the most successful UFC events to date.

By the time the day is done, Vancouver could officially become a destination of the UFC and another point of reference for the continued legislation of the sport across the country, much to councillor David Cadman's dismay.

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