There is no doubt about it, the Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White is a people pleaser. On a last-minute ruse, he decided to join UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright on a trip to Calgary to announce big news for Canadian mixed martial arts fans.
"[Canada] has been the mecca for MMA ever since we set foot in the country," said White. "So we have a pretty big announcement as far as Canada goes. For the first time ever, in 2012 we will host three events up here in this country. Obviously the first one being Calgary."
It goes without saying that the UFC would be crazy not to pursue future Canadian events, but White is fully aware of the commitment of Canadian fans and athletes.
"As people here know, in 2008 the UFC first came to Canada with UFC 83 in Montreal and since then we've had eight events in Canada," said Wright.
Montreal has hosted four UFC events. Toronto and Vancouver have each hosted two UFC events. According to a UFC press release, Canadian UFC fights are more than modestly profitable with "a cumulative gross gate of $40 million and millions more in economic impact." Impressively, Canadian UFC events have also set record attendances and quickest sellouts, especially Toronto's UFC 129 which "obliterated almost every UFC record including attendance (55,724) and gate ($12 million)."
With Calgary's long history of not only appreciation, but major support and participation in MMA and combative sports entertainment, it is only logical that Calgary would be a well-timed first pick for UFC 149 coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede. The event will take place on July 21, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome, with tickets proposed to be on sale in mid-May. Although none of the cards have been announced, White confirmed that UFC featherweight Jose Aldo will be defending his title.
The press conference held on March 21 featured several guest stars, including hometown hero Nick Ring, Mitch Clarke of Edmonton and Jason MacDonald of Red Deer. MacDonald states that UFC 149 will be the last fight before he retires.
Two well-known Canadian fighters, Mark Hominick of Thamesford, Ontario and Georges St. Pierre of Montreal announced via Satellite that the events following the fight in Calgary will be held in Toronto on September 22 and in Montreal on November 17. Vancouver will be left off the event calendar until at least 2014. Past UFC events in Vancouver in 2010 and 2011 were held during a two year test period.
Canadians can look forward to additional events, one of which will be held in Calgary in 2014. White folded to a fan's demand, deciding on the spot that there will be a Calgary UFC Fan Expo in the future.
With 22 Canadian fighters signed with the UFC, White announced that many of them will fight in front of hometown crowds.