UFC coming to Winnipeg

Winnipeg will host an Ultimate Fighting Championship card this summer.
Winnipeg will host an Ultimate Fighting Championship card on June 15, marking the first time the city will host the popular mixed martial arts event. 1:55

Winnipeg will host an Ultimate Fighting Championship card this summer.

The announcement about the mixed martial arts event, UFC 161, was made Tuesday morning at the MTS Centre in the city's downtown.

On June 15, Winnipeg will become the fifth Canadian city to host a UFC card after Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

According to the MMA Junkie website and USA Today, UFC President Dana White said the card will feature a rematch between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (21-7 MMA, 5-5 UFC) and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC).

No other matchups have yet been announced for the event, which will be available on pay-per-view.

Tickets for Winnipeg’s event go on sale on April 12.

Dedicated 'fight community'

Winnipeg city Coun. Dan Vandal, a former boxer, says the city was chosen for UFC 161 because it has a dedicated "fight community" that regulates the sport to ensure safety.

"I didn't have a lot of selling to do. They knew all about Winnipeg," said Vandal, who is also chair of the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission.

"These guys are pros. They do their homework, they know what the pay-per-view numbers are like, and Winnipeg has a pretty dedicated fight community."

The Manitoba Combative Sports Commission oversees mixed martial arts and boxing matches in Winnipeg. It also makes sure doctors and ambulances are ready at matches if necessary, Vandal said.

Vandal said he went to Montreal three years ago to promote Winnipeg as a UFC host city. He said back then, officials told him it was just a matter of time.

Vandal said critics who say UFC is violent are partially right, but he noted that other popular sports can also be violent.

"It is a contact sport and at times it is violent — as is boxing, as is hockey, football," he said.

"There's a lot of sports that are contact sports that get to be violent."

Glamorizes fighting?

But Matt Roucek of Pan Am Boxing in the Exchange District said he worries the arrival of mixed martial arts in Winnipeg would glamorize fighting.

"Kids can start doing this in their own homes and backyards, and it becomes so dangerous. It really needs to be supervised," he said.

Roucek said the main difference between boxing and mixed martial arts is that boxing does not involve kicking or take-downs.

He said it’s up to parents to educate their kids about the dangers of undisciplined fighting.

"These athletes train for years and years. Anybody off the street can’t just start practicing this," said Roucek.