UFC sets up Toronto office
Ultimate Fighting Championship to break into Ontario marketTORONTO -- Looking to muscle his way into Ontario, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White has opened an office in Toronto, and named former Canadian Football League commissioner Tom Wright to head up UFC Canada as president and top lobbyist.
"This market is so important to us, it's time we opened an office here," White and UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta told a press conference in Toronto.
"To not have a market here is insane," he added.
The UFC already does 17% of its new media and pay-per-view TV business in Canada. The stumbling block is the UFC remains persona non grata in Ontario, Canada's biggest TV market, as the province considers the MMA sport as prize fighting, and so banned under the federal criminal code.
Individual provinces can exempt boxing and MMA events and sanction those sports.
Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta did as much in allowing MMA events in their backyard. So the UFC has staged highly successful pay-per-view events in Montreal and Vancouver.
The UFC also receives blanket coverage for its TV shows on local Ontario cable schedules.
But White's toughest opponent remains Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty.
"It's just not on the agenda for us right now," McGuinty told reporters in March when UFC's White was last in Toronto to lobby for his fast-growing sport to be sanctioned in Ontario.
McGuinty's entertainment priorities include Los Angeles film and TV producers, who he has enticed here with ever-richer tax credits, and Starz Entertainment and Ubisoft, which have received taxpayer dollars to set up locally.
The UFC also wants to set up its stall in Toronto, considering the rich broadcast rights dollars and gate receipts up for grabs locally.
"If you look at Toronto, it's the fourth-largest commercial business area in North America behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. So it obviously makes sense for us to be here from a business standpoint," UFC's Fertitta told reporters.