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Has Ultimate Fighting developed a social conscience?

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Montreal's Georges St-Pierre, top, is Canada's top fighter and an international superstar. While he won't be fighting at Saturday's event, several other Canadians are on the card. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The people behind the Ultimate Fighting Championship are battling hard to sway public perception in favour of the brand -- and they've made headway in at least one province.

The fighters have gone from pariahs to potential role models in Ontario, and the formerly-banned sport could even be incorporated into a fitness program for Torontonian school children.

In the lead-up to a high-profile UFC event in Toronto on Saturday, the CBC's Andre Mayer posed the question: Has Ultimate Fighting developed a social conscience?

Mayer noted that the franchise has taken some "notable and perhaps controversial steps to burnish its public profile, with an eye to expanding into other Canadian markets." These steps include:

  • Making public commitments to give back to the communities that host UFC events.
  • Organizing speaking events during which fighters speak out against bullying and other social ills.
  • Increasing credibility and public acceptance through carefully-crafted marketing.
  • Taking steps to make the sport safer, such as introducing new rules and lobbying for regulation.
  • Encouraging referees to be much more vigilant.
  • Producing a reality TV series that takes viewers behind-the-scenes.
  • Showcasing charismatic and media-savvy fighters, like Georges St. Pierre.
  • Developing a fitness program for school children and at-risk youth.

"In a relatively short period of time, mixed martial arts has grown from being vilified for its perceived bloodlust to almost mainstream entertainment," noted Mayer.

Has the UFC won you over? Are you comfortable with the brand's efforts to integrate into communities? Do you think extreme fighters are appropriate role models for students?

(This survey is not scientific. It is based on readers' responses.)


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