It took a couple of reversals, but Premier Dalton McGuinty has finally made the right decision and ruled that professional mixed martial arts fights can be held in Ontario, paving the way for a lucrative Ultimate Fighting Championship card in Toronto sometime in 2011.
I’ve long supported this move, including a lengthy blog post in February after McGuinty said that the ban on MMA was not going to be lifted.
But now that the Premier has changed his mind, it’s worth repeating some of the arguments in favour of the emerging sport.
As most proponents of MMA have argued, it’s actually the safest of the combat sports because the referees have more discretion to stop the match and as a result are more proactive in ending lopsided bouts.
As a result, unlike boxing’s standing counts, once a fighter has sustained a serious blow to the head, the match is over. This prevents concussions and long-term brain damage.
Old school sports commentators often complain about the blood and savagery of the sport, while championing traditional combat sports like boxing, wrestling, judo and tae kwon do.
This is a weak argument on their part. After all, MMA incorporates strategy and training from all of those disciplines. There’s no case to be made against the submission moves of the UFC when wrestling, one of the world’s first Olympic sports, relies on many of the same moves.
Further, prizefights were already being held on some Native reserves. Legalization province-wide would mean that better, more expansive safety regulations would be created, insuring that mixed martial artists would be guaranteed higher safety standards.
There is also the economic benefit. Toronto is a sporting city and the home base for almost all of Canada’s major media outlets. A major MMA event here would expose the sport to even more people and create a buzz around the industry.
In their press releases the Ontario government has estimated that it’ll generate approximately $6 million for Toronto-area businesses.
I’m no economist and I don’t know how these estimates work or how accurate they are, but obvious that like any big event - concert, conference, festival, whatever – a UFC event would provide a boost to Ontario’s economy.
Without getting too political, I will say that it’s nice to see that Premier Dalton McGuinty changed his mind and is, at long last, welcoming mixed martial arts and promoters like the UFC to Ontario. It's one of those rare win-win situations: it will be good for the sport and for the province.