While in attendance at the UFC press conference in which the promotion announced announced that it would be making it’s long-awaited debut in Ontario last year, I asked the company’s newly-appointed Canadian director of operations, Tom Wright, whether or not there were plans to implement any community-based programs such as in-school anti-bullying initiatives. Although it was early in his tenure, Wright told me that it was definitely something that they would be looking at and that programs such as these were some of the most rewarding he experienced as the head of the Canadian Football League Commissioner.
It’s been 19 months since Wright was hired and Zuffa announced this week that it’s planning on working with local schools in the Greater Toronto Area, where it’s Canadian branch is located, to implement a mentoring program for youth who have experienced bullying. Though it’s too early to tell, there are indications that a regular stream of fighters could speak to Toronto kids about their own experiences with bullying as youth, teachers and parents and if all goes well, it could become a implemented in schools across the country.
Ahead of this weekend’s UFC 140 event in the city, the UFC, in conjunction with the Toronto Police Services held a special event today at Saturday’s venue featuring some local fighters like Mark Hominick, Sean Pierson and Sam Stout and American fighters like bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz and ex-NFL player-turned UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione.
During the two-hour event, which wrapped up minutes ago, students listened to short speeches by the fighters about their own trials and tribulations with bullying growing up and were given an opportunity during a Q&A period to ask the fighters questions.
Critics of the sport have been vocal of their opposition to having fighters who punch, kick and choke their opponents for a living into the schools to tell kids to not do what they do outside of competition. Ironically, the same critics have been mostly silent about local boxing legend George Chuvalo and former Toronto Argonaut Mike “Pinball” Clemons visiting schools dozens of times every year.
Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford, whose brother Rob is the city’s mayor, told reporters over the weekend that he supported the initiative and that he hoped the city would embrace the program that will help at-risk youth, but his comments were met with a furor by his fellow municipal politicians who don’t agree with the partnership with schools in the city, even if bullying is a real epidemic there.
The question is, does fighting for a living actually make a person less credible when it comes to talking to kids about bullying?
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