Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White says he'll bring the UFC to Toronto within 12 months.
Mixed martial arts events -- of which UFC pay-per-views are the biggest, richest example -- still aren't legal in Ontario, but White is confident that the large local fan base and the UFC's persistent lobbying will combine to force provincial officials to legalize the sport.
And he contends it will happen in 2010.
"I want to be able hold an event there next year," White said in a phone interview from is Las Vegas home. "There's only so many places we can get to at the same time, so we're knocking all these little ones down. Once we're done we're focusing on Ontario and I'm 100 percent confident that it's going to happen."
The UFC has a track record of persuading athletic commissions to change their minds on mixed martial arts. Yesterday their lobbyists finally persuaded Vancouver city council to regulate the sport, and the UFC quickly confirmed that they would host a show at GM Place in June 2010. And late last month Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick signed legislation allowing that state to host MMA events.
Those moves mean that among major North American jurisdictions, only New York and Ontario still refuse to regulate MMA, but White expects to conquer New York early next year.
"We got Vancouver done, we got Massachusetts done, now we'll get new York done," he said. "Then we're all guns blazing in Ontario. We're coming after Ontario."
In Ontario the UFC still must contend with the provincial athletic commission, which hasn't budged from its position that MMA violates the section of the Criminal Code that outlaws unsanctioned prize fights, and which struggles to cover its current workload, much less the extra labour the UFC would create.
Commissioner Ken Hayashi hasn't yet returned a phone call from the Star, but two weeks ago his assistant said the commission's stance on MMA hadn't changed.