UFC eyeing Vancouver show next June

The UFC says it is on target to hold a show in Vancouver next year, with General Motors Place reserved for a card in June.

The UFC says it is on target to hold a show in Vancouver next year, with General Motors Place reserved for a card in June.

UFC officials were in Vancouver to press their cause and publicize it via a media roundtable Thursday. South of the border, UFC president Dana White was presenting it as a done deal.

"We're going to Vancouver. We'll be there soon … Let's just say we got it done," he told the UFC 102 pre-fight news conference Thursday from Portland, Ore.

Pressed on the matter afterwards, he said: "Nothing has been announced yet except me out here shooting my mouth off early as usual that we're going to Vancouver."

The UFC has been touting Vancouver for months, with June cited as the target date for a mixed martial arts show. The media roundtable was an opportunity for UFC to further make its case that the sport should be welcome, given its recent record and the hard economic times.

The UFC met with B.C. Attorney General Mike de Jong on Wednesday, following up on meeting with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson six weeks ago.

"We've had positive meetings," Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice-president of regulatory affairs, said in an interview Thursday.

The UFC will still have to go before city council to get its OK but Ratner is optimistic "we should be able to get approved." Shows had been permitted in Vancouver until the council opted to call a halt while it studied the issue.

Ratner, who called GM Place a "wonderful, wonderful arena," noted that Victoria had hosted an MMA show on Saturday. "So shows are happening."

Ratner said issues addressed ranged from liability to security, including the issue of whether MMA shows attracted gangs.

While Ratner works on opening up B.C., he hopes to end the debate over sanctioning the sport in Canada by dealing with the federal government.

"The long-range goal is go up to Ottawa and have the Criminal Code amended to include mixed martial arts and kickboxing so there's no question of what's going on," he said.

That will happen in a couple of weeks.

In Toronto, he said the Criminal Code is being interpreted differently than in Montreal.

Section 83.1 of the Criminal Code says anyone who "engages as a principal in a prize fight," encourages, promotes or is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter is guilty of an offence — unless the "boxing contest" is "held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province."

The section also allows "a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than 140 grams each in mass."

The Ontario Athletic Commission had argued that a mixed martial arts event was not a boxing contest. But provincial officials have since said that is not the issue. Safety was more the factor the province was examining.

The UFC has already held two successful shows in Montreal and hopes to add Vancouver and Toronto in 2010. It says holding a show is worth $7 million to $10 million US in economic impact, depending on the city.

The organization consistently calls Canada the "Mecca of mixed martial arts," citing healthy ticket sales by Canadians at shows around North America and elsewhere.