Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is looking to make its third run at Canada, and it could come with its second stop in the Pacific Northwest: Vancouver.
While company president Dana White is in Portland, Ore., today preparing for the promotion’s first show in the northwest — tomorrow night’s UFC 102: "Couture vs. Nogueira" — other UFC officials were in British Columbia’s largest city, presenting their case for what the UFC could mean to Vancouver’s economy and flourishing mixed martial arts fan base, according to the Globe and Mail.
The proposal is for a pay-per-view UFC event to be held at General Motors Place — the (approximately) 19,000-seat home of the NHL’s Canucks franchise — for a possible June 2010 date. The company already has the support of the Aquilini family, which owns GM Place, along with the Canucks.
What could be equally attractive from an economic viewpoint is the possibility of adjoining the UFC card to a fan exposition. The UFC’s inaugural fan expo — held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the historic UFC 100 card — reportedly drew 40,000 fans over a two-day period and required 150,000 square feet of convention space.
Plus, with the sheer number of staff, fighters, fans and support personnel traveling with each UFC event, the local hotel and restaurant industries benefit sizably.
UFC officials were joined in Vancouver by Marc Ratner, former Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director, who is helping make the case for the promotion to city officials. MMA is not currently sanctioned in Vancouver, or B.C. for that matter, but company officials are confident it could happen in the next four months.
Ratner pledged that the UFC would absorb the entire cost of insuring fighters — a sticking point with Vancouver city councilors — as well as providing for additional security on fight night.
Like other UFC cards, the event would feature local Canadian talent and is likely to include the hugely popular welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre.
The Montreal native headlined the promotion’s first foray into Canada at UFC 83: "Serra vs. St. Pierre 2," which set a North American attendance record for the sport at 21,390 people. That record held until the promotion’s second trip to Canada at UFC 97: "Redemption" (21,451 fans).
UFC executive vice president Lawrence Epstein said that Canadian fans account for 15 to 20 percent of the promotion’s business, which he called its largest per capita success story.