"It's just not a priority for us at this point in time, we have higher priorities when it comes to developing those jobs and strengthening the economy," he said.
"We have other things on the go right now, and we'll stay focused on those, whether that's our tax reforms, stimulating the economy through investments in infrastructure, getting our children better opportunities at the outset."
The UFC has never kept its desire to stage shows here a secret, and in December McGuinty stoked those hopes when he told an interviewer from CTV that he had "an open mind" toward legalizing MMA in Ontario. And while McGuinty didn't rule out revisiting the issue in the future, today's comments about MMA signal that the UFC's window of opportunity in Ontario may be closing.
The shift in McGuinty's attitude also dents the UFC's plans for 2010.
Last December, after Massachusetts adopted legislation regulating mixed martial arts, White gushed on his Twitter page that New York and Ontario would come around next. And after Vancouver city council made a similar move in December, clearing way for a UFC event there this summer, White proclaimed that the UFC would indeed land in Toronto in 2010.
But because one state or province decides to legalize MMA doesn't mean another jurisdiction has to and the UFC is learning the hard way that the Ontario Athletics Commission follows no lead but their own, even if it means alienating local MMA fans.
That group of people must be particularly peeved at the premier's shift in attitude. Three weeks ago, with White seemed convinced the UFC would lobby its way into Ontario, and with Brock Lesnar bashing Canada's health care system, it seemed plausible -- even possible -- that the UFC would have to back up his anti-Canadian in Toronto, at a show timed to coincide with his comeback from an intestinal disease.
And it does seem cruel of McGuinty to dangle the hope of legalized local MMA, then yank it away two months later.
But big picture is the news that devastating?
Not really. Visit any sports bar during a UFC pay per view and you'll figure out quickly MMA is doing just fine among local sports fans, that the ongoing ban hasn't dulled the sport's lustre for most folks.
Yes it stinks for hardcore MMA fans that the local athletic commission sanctions a far more dangerous activity -- boxing -- while refusing to recognize the sport you love as legitimate.
It's disappointing, but I'm pretty sure the world will keep turning. And if the provincial government wants to make the economy a bigger priority than re-drawing the rule concerning combat sports, even if it means remaining out of step with the mainstreaming of MMA, I can't begrudge them.
As my good friend and proud MMA hater Jason Abelson points out, if you really need to see the UFC in person it's a short drive to Columbus and an even shorter one to Montreal.