Sports

Outside the octagon

Canadian fight fans want more UFC events

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Illustration by Evan Brien

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans across the nation have grown impatient with one of the largest sports organizations in the world. 

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has made stops in Canada in various cities over the years, but just not as frequently, or with the quality that Canadian fans would like. 

Calgary is all too familiar with this.  Back in 2012, Calgary hosted UFC 149, a card that is now viewed as one of the worst cards in the organizationís history. 

After the event, UFC president Dana White recognized how bad the card was and made a promise to come back to deliver a better line-up. 

“We can count on one hand how many shows actually sucked, and tonight is one more finger on the hand,” White said during the press conference after the event. 

Four years have passed since then and there is no sign of a return card, with future fights already announced until mid-2017. 

Former SAIT student Maxwell Mawji has been a fan of the UFC for years, and sees the issue that Calgary may not be seen as a large market for MMA as a potential reason why they have not returned. 

“From a marketing standpoint, there are less possible fans here,” said Mawji. 

“Calgary’s a relatively small population compared to the cities where fights normally take place.” 

Despite the smaller market compared to Las Vegas or New York, Mawji believes that it doesn’t stop Calgary fans from cramming in front of TV sets to watch pay-per-views, such as the most recent card, UFC 205. 

“Calgarians packed bars in Kensington to watch Conor McGregor beat down Eddie Alvarez,” Mawji said.

“I believe if a title fight were to be hosted in Calgary, people would turn out for it.” 

UFC fan James Bews, who has followed the sport for over seven years, believes that the UFC just doesn’t seem too concerned with Calgary fans or Canadian fans as much as those from the United States or other countries. 

“The UFC is definitely leaving its Canadian viewership in the dust,” Bews said. 

According to Bews, this is in large part due to the fact that Canada lacks a big Canadian star to build a market and main event around. 

For some time, it was Rory ìThe Red Kingî MacDonald, who decided to sign with a different fighting organization, Bellator, after his contract with the UFC expired this year. 

ìThere isn’t a big name who is Canadian left at the moment,” Bews said. 

“If MacDonald was still with the UFC, there would be more Canadian cards and possibly a Calgary one.”

Prior to MacDonald, Canada had one of the UFCís biggest star, in former welterweight champion, Georges St-Pierre. 

St-Pierre was a two-time welterweight champion in the UFC, who holds a professional record of 25-2, and is viewed as one of the best welterweight fighters in the world. 

St-Pierre decided to take a break from the sport, vacating the 170-pound title he held for so long back in December 2013. 

“When GSP left, we were fortunate to have Rory on the rise,” Bews said. 

“Now with Rory gone, we’re left hoping for a GSP return.” 

A return almost seemed to be sooner rather than later for the Dec. 10 Toronto-hosted UFC 206, which had rumours of St-Pierre coming back as the main event, but it never materialized.

“There was a buzz of ëholy crap GSP is backí,” said Bews in regards to the rumours. 

For Bews, it’s a matter of waiting to see the process, which he hopes gets resolved with the return of GSP, or a new Canadian star on the rise who will bring the UFC back to Calgary and Canada more often.

“Both Calgary and Canada deserve more fight cards,” Bews said. 

“We waited four years; we don’t want to wait another four.” 

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