UFC’s Canadian Decision A Step In The Right Direction

UFC Canada Announcement a Step in the Right Direction

While some were underwhelmed by the UFC’s “major announcement” yesterday afternoon at the Rogers Centre, this Canadian is excited and impressed with the unveiling of plans to open a UFC Canada office in Toronto headed by former CFL commissioner Tom Wright.

This was, as Dana White said, “long overdue.” Canada is the second largest market for the UFC, and home to both the fastest sellout and largest attendance number in company history, as well as perhaps its most beloved fighter, Georges St-Pierre.

Establishing an office in Canada takes some of the responsibility for Canadian events off the Las Vegas head office, but more importantly, it gives the company a permanent home in one of their key markets. Though White and Lorenzo Fertitta tried to downplay the value of having a Canadian office headed by a Canuck in the company’s quest for legislation in the province of Ontario, there is no question that the hiring of Tom Wright to oversee things in this new office is both a business and political decision.

Michael Landsberg of TSN questioned whether White saw this move as an “admittance of defeat” in the company’s efforts in Ontario, speculating that part of the problem with pushing through the necessary changes to the Criminal Code of Canada was the idea of an American organization petitioning the Canadian government. As expected, White denied defeat and injected humor into his response, but the notion is not as far-fetched as he made it sound.

While it has been the mild-mannered Marc Ratner and UFC legal counsel Lawrence Epstein handling the heavy lifting in Ontario, White remains the face of the organization, and his abrasive and aggressive nature is atypical of the type of individual Canadian politicians and leaders are eager to do business with. That is where Wright comes in.

First and foremost, he’s a Canadian, and the importance of that cannot be understated. We are a proud nation and one that likes to see our native sons and daughters given the opportunity to excel within our borders, as well as abroad. Had the UFC opted to go with an American at the helm, this announcement would have had a negative spin attached to it in the Canadian media. By selecting Wright, they’ve avoided that angle.

Though Wright’s time in the CFL wasn’t without a couple of hiccups, but ultimately, it showed what kind of positive impact he can bring to this newly created Canadian office of the UFC. In addition to securing an excellent television deal for the league, he found committed and continuous ownership for both Toronto and Hamilton. The resurgence the CFL is currently experiencing began under the guidance of Wright, and he will surely bring the same level of commitment and passion to his new post as well.

Some of the media in attendance seemed underwhelmed by the announcement. One admitted he was hoping for an event announcement, apparently forgetting that one of the main goals of the newly minted office will be helping to have the sport legislated in the province.

While the announcement was somewhat expected, people appeared to want more, like the announcement of TUF 12: Canada vs. USA. By the way, that would be absolutely awesome.

But with Toronto serving as the second biggest battleground the UFC is fighting to break, the creation of a Canadian office headed by a Canuck with serious political ties and a track record of success makes perfect sense, and qualifies as a “major announcement” as advertised.

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