The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) took a major step forward on Wednesday (June 5, 2013) with the passing of two major bills in the country of Canada and American state of Connecticut.
While they are two very different regions with very different systems of government, bills were passed through the respective legislative processes of each to legalize MMA.
In Connecticut, a bill to legalize the sport passed through state Senate by a 26-9 vote, making it the 47th of 48 American states with an athletic commission to regulate the sport.
The lone state with an active athletic commission that still deems MMA as an illegal activity is New York, while the states of Montana and Alaska have no athletic commissions to speak of and therefor are unlikely to host any major MMA events.
"Today is a real big day for the sport," UFC Director of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner told MMA Fighting. "I want people to understand there are 47 states that have athletic commissions that have approved the sport, and two states without commissions that allow the sport."
No official announcements regarding upcoming events in Connecticut have been made at this time.
New York has been the most difficult territory in arguably the entire world for the UFC crack as year after year the organization has failed to successful push a bill through legislation despite exhausting every possible resource.
It appeared 2013 may finally be the year where MMA would become legal, however, with just a few legislative sessions left in the year it's unknown if the bill will even see a vote.
UFC President Dana White voiced his displeasure over New York's lack of sanctioning for the sport, tweeting out a photo of all North American regions that legalize MMA and asking, "Who looks stupid on this map?"
As for Canada, the bill passed by Canada's House of Commons on Wednesday --Bill S-209-- has a dramatic effect not just in one province, but across the entire country as the criminal code was amended with a provision including MMA by a vote of 267-9.
Prior to the provision, the area of the criminal code which mentions combat sports --last updated in 1934-- stated that any kind of prize fighting besides boxing was deemed illegal.
Due to the fact the sport of MMA didn't officially exist in 1934, athletic commissions across the country still hosted events under the loophole that the bill made no mention of MMA competition as a legal or illegal activity.
It was a long and trying process to make such a simple change to the bill, however, Ratner and UFC Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright couldn't be more satisfied with end result.
"It took us four years," Rater told MMA Fighting. "They added the words 'and MMA' to boxing."
"The work that we've done in Ottawa has been for the sport of MMA, not just UFC." Wright said. "People say it's self-serving. Sure it is. But when we got the changes in Ontario, the first year, we held two events and I think there were 20 other events across the province that wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the work for that sport that we championed."
With the exception of Saskatchewan, a majority of Canadian provinces have fully functioning athletic commissions and with the passing of the bill said athletic commissions can focus entirely on their jobs instead of having a legal grey area over their head when it comes to MMA.
The next UFC event to take place north of the border is UFC 161: "Evans vs. Henderson," which goes down June 15, 2013 from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.