Sorry folks, Dana White has no new answers about bringing MMA to Ontario
It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what was foremost on the minds of the hundreds of fans and media who turned out for Tuesday’s Q&A with Dana White at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto: When is the UFC coming to Ontario?
More specifically, they wanted to know when mixed martial arts will be sanctioned in the province and what the UFC president is doing to further that goal.
Since I heard that question asked a dozen different times and a dozen different ways, allow me to paraphrase White’s dozen responses: The UFC is coming to Ontario (Toronto, specifically). It is inevitable (obviously), and it will be soon. Just how soon? White has no clue.
“It’s something we’re working toward, talking to the Ontario government and the Toronto government, letting them know that we will do whatever it takes – we’re asking them to regulate us, we’ll provide safety reports, pay taxes, whatever – to get this thing happening,” he says.
White also acknowledged that sanctioning hasn’t happened as quickly as he’d expected, especially given the rabid UFC fanbase in the province.
“The fans here are frustrated, but I’m not frustrated, I’m determined,” he says. “I consider Ontario to be our biggest market in the world with more fans than anywhere else – and we haven’t even held an event here yet.”
And while it’s hardly shocking that sanctioning MMA isn’t a priority for Ontario premiere Dalton McGuinty, it’s a little surprising to hear White admit it’s not at the very top of his “to do” list, either. After all, White’s been talking big talk about bringing the sport here for a couple of years. So whether he denies it or not, he has to be frustrated with the brick wall that’s been thrown up in front of him.
No matter, though, he has bigger fish to fry. He’s got global domination in mind.
There’s UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, efforts to bring the UFC to China and the launch of international versions of The Ultimate Fighter, starting with a show based in the Middle East. (I’m a little unclear how that one will work. Isn’t there already enough fighting in that part of the world? Although it could make for riveting, tension-filled television if, for example, there happens to be Israeli and Palestinian fighters living and training and fighting alongside each other.)
So what else was on White’s mind?
- For one thing, he’s not sweating the recent ban of UFC events by German television. “There’s always somebody who doesn’t like what we do. It comes with the territory. I’m not going to sugarcoat it – MMA is a violent sport – and German television has banned us just like they have the WWE and a lot of other things. I don’t expect it to last.”
- The rumoured April 17 UFC card to counter-program the Strikeforce event on the same night was exactly that, a rumour. White says he never had any intention of putting a fight on that night.
- He’s also seriously considering adding new weight classes to the UFC, although he’s steadfast that they’ll be lower weight classes and not additions to help break up the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions (which is what really needs to happen).
- He fully expects lightweight champ BJ Penn to move back up to welterweight if and when he beats challenger Frankie Edgar at UFC 112. “That would pretty much clean out the division so it only makes sense that he move up. But he won’t face Georges St. Pierre right away. He’ll have to go through someone like Josh Koscheck or Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves first.”
- Likewise, both GSP and middleweight champ Anderson Silva should move up in weight class once their divisions are cleaned out.
- Not only does White want to sign Strikeforce champ Jake Shields, whose contract ends with his April 17 bout with former UFC fighter Dan Henderson, he wants every great fighter there is. “Sure I want Shields, I want [Gegard] Mousasi, I want Fedor [Emelianenko]. I want anyone who’s considered the best. And if I want them, I’ll get them.”