UFC promoters claim Calgary event good for the city

UFC promoters say their Calgary event in July will be positive for the whole city — not just fans.

UFC promoters say their Calgary event in July will be positive for the whole city — not just fans.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship — or mixed martial arts competition — is coming to Calgary for the first time.

The event will be held at the Saddledome on July 21. The combat sport has exploded in popularity in the past five years.

It's also a sport the Canadian Medical Association has tried to have banned in this country.

Dana White was in Calgary Wednesday to make the official UFC announcement. (CBC)

Hundreds of fans were downtown Calgary Wednesday to show their support. UFC supporters packed Flames Central to the roof to hear the official announcement for the Calgary event after standing in line for hours.

"As far as the support we get from this country, I just want to hit you guys with a few facts," UFC president Dana White told the crowd.

"We've only done eight events here in Canada, over 200,000 fans have attended in three host cities — Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto — over $40 million in gate."

Fans get ready for the July event

One of those enthusiatic fans is Tim Haig.

"I just love that it's really a pure form of sport," he said. "There's no one else to depend on but yourself and you have to be accountable for all your own mistakes." 

Even his three-year-old son Brady is excited. "I just really like the fighting," he said.

UFC fans lined up for hours at Flames Central Wednesday. (Alana Cole/CBC)

Emergency room Dr. Louis Francescutti is not so keen.

"Actually, 50 per cent of these events end up as a result of a knockout or a knock down or a choke, and so they can't deny that the intent of the sport is to go out and harm your opponent," he said.

Red Deer's Jason MacDonald has won 19 UFC fights.

"There's some punching and kicking and grappling going on," he said. "But it's also a sport. I look at my competition as exactly that — competition. I'm not angry at them. I'm not trying to hurt them."

Organizers says the UFC is not like a one-night concert. They say fans will be in Calgary from the time the competitors weigh in, days before the actual fight.

Tickets will likely go on sale in May. Seating capacity for the event will be around 20,000.