(Photo courtesy CBC.ca)
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre met with Canadian Federal lawmakers on Wednesday to help educate them about the sport of mixed martial arts in an effort to move along legislation to add the sport to the Criminal Code of Canada alongside boxing on the list of legally sanctioned combat sports in the country.
St-Pierre’s visit was a result of an invitation by Canadian Heritage Minister Jim Moore, a vocal MMA fan who helped with the push for legalization in his home riding of Vancouver, BC, which approved sanctioning on a two-year trial basis late last year and is playing host to UFC 115 next month.
It was no coincidence that GSP’s trip to Parliament Hill coincides with the UFC’s latest trek to Canada for this weekend’s UFC 113 event in Montreal. According to an interview with MMAJunkie last week, Marc Ratner, the UFC’s Vice President of Regulatory and Governmental Affairs said that members of the company’s legal team and lobbying group were also expected to join St-Pierre for the engagement.
Several provinces including Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, North West Territories and Nova Scotia all actively regulate MMA. As it stands now the only provinces that don’t allow the sport in their jurisdictions are Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut. Unlike Ontario, where the Ontario Athletic Commission refuses to acknowledge the sport, the other non-sanctioning provinces don’t regulate MMA because they have no commission.
At a provincial level in Ontario, there are some closed door meetings being held and I’m told by sources involved in these talks that there could be movement towards setting the wheels into motion towards establishing a ruleset and governing body in the coming months. As it exists in its current form, the Ontario Athletic Commission, which consists of commissioner Ken Hayashi (who opposes the sport and is unfamiliar with the judging criteria and ruleset) and his occasionally employed wife, son and handful of contractors, will likely not be able to handle regulation of the sport when it goes legit. If provincial legislators give the sport the OK in Ontario, an amendment will be made to the Athletics Control Act to allow the sport.
That’s it. It could be done in an hour and the policy instituted the next day.
If the current government in the province doesn’t move towards sanctioning, the opposition is waiting in the wings to pick up the ball. Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has been vocal about his support of MMA sanctioning and has blasted Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal cabinet for not legalizing the sport and effectively bringing millions of dollars in tourism and tax dollars into the local economy of major centers such as Ottawa and Toronto.
In an interview with the Toronto Sun this week, Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford declared that, if elected, he would welcome MMA in the city and would personally put pressure on McGuinty and Consumer Services Minister, Sophia Aggelonitis to get it done.
"What are we talking about here?" said Ford. "We’re talking about bringing business to Toronto. It’s good business and it will bring in big money to the city. I’m not promoting violence here. That’s not what this is about. This is an entertainment product. You may like it, you may not like it, that’s your choice. People who don’t like it don’t have to watch it. It’s not like we’re playing it in the middle of the Gardiner Expressway or anything. In my mind, we have to be open to business ideas that bring money and excitement to the city. This will generate millions of dollars for the city. I don’t know how you can be against this."
Hopefully the bureaucrats can get their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that MMA is a legitimate sport whose injury and mortality rates are minuscule compared to those of other mainstream sports. If they do and Ontario follows in the footsteps of BC, we could very well see a show in Toronto this New Years Eve.