UFC has plans for Sask.
SASKATOON — For years, Saskatchewan fight fans hoping to attend a live Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event had no choice but to hit the road.
Perhaps as soon as late summer, that won’t be the case anymore.
The provincial government on Tuesday introduced the Athletics Commission Act, legislation that will lead to the establishment of the Athletics Commission of Saskatchewan. That body will oversee professional mixed martial arts, boxing and other combat sports.
Following the announcement, The StarPhoenix went five rounds with five interested parties ...
■ UFC has held events in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Quebec City and Halifax. UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright said the company continues to target Saskatchewan — most likely Saskatoon, where SaskTel Centre could seat around 10,000 for a UFC card.
The chances of it happening in 2015? “If I said really, really good, would you accept that?” Wright said recently. “Well then, that’s what I would say.”
On Tuesday, he said he will continue pushing for the company’s Saskatchewan debut this year.
“I would like nothing better,” Wright said.
UFC has a Canadian event, but no location confirmed, scheduled for Aug. 23. Wright said the company has placed holds on several buildings that Sunday.
“There may be one in your province,” he hinted, before adding that nothing has been officially decided.
“I know the UFC is excited to bring an event to the green province in the near future.”
■ Saskatoon trainer-promoter Troy Scheer is closely monitoring the regulation of amateur MMA. After roughly a decade under the watch of the Saskatchewan Martial Arts Association, amateur promoters have been told events are on hold until the commission is in place. The province said Tuesday it will continue having the SMAA oversee the amateurs, but Scheer is taking a wait-and-see attitude.
“You need an amateur pool to develop a pro pool,” Scheer said, stressing the importance of having options for both “so pros have a place to go and amateurs have a place to develop before going pro.”
■ SaskTel Centre CEO Will Lofdahl is always looking for worldclass events. UFC definitely qualifies, he said.
“We’ve had discussions with them. They are waiting until everything is finalized before they make their plans about going forward,” he said.
The Saskatchewan commission is expected to begin accepting applications from promoters and combatants, and issuing event permits, next month.
“Certainly everybody’s been keenly aware of the progress of legislation,” Lofdahl said. “Hopefully we will be able to have a very successful event here in the nottoo-distant future ... In our eyes, it would be a sold-out show. It would be telecast worldwide. That’s big. That’s really big.”
■ Last year, Section 83 (2) of the Criminal Code of Canada was expanded to define prizefighting as not just boxing, but also mixed martial arts. At that point, the Saskatchewan government gave pro combat sports the go-ahead. Especially at the start, the new commission will rely on lessons from other bodies across North America.
“We’re going to be learning ourselves for a while going forward,” said commission chair Scott Brown. “There are some great examples to look to.”
■ Saskatoon native Mitch Clarke, who attended Walter Murray Collegiate and the University of Saskatchewan, is the only fighter from the province thus far to reach the UFC. He is happy about Tuesday’s announcement, but there remains much work to do, he said.
“We’ll see how long it takes to form (the commission), what jurisdiction they’ll have and who will be on it. Who determines who is on the commission? I hope it’s sooner than later and we’ll be able to start having events, UFC or otherwise, soon,” he said.
“It’ll be a big day when we have our first event, and I’m looking forward to it.”