UFC wins legal fight, headed to Ontario

Government ends three-year ban to welcome sport in 2011

TORONTO -- Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White's cage match with Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty is over.

The UFC has managed to muscle its way into Canada's most lucrative market after McGuinty's government ended three years of opposition and said it will sanction the mixed martial arts sport in the province from 2011.

The decision means Shane Carwin, Frank Mir, Brock Lesnar and other UFC gladiators will possibly show up for a fight card at Toronto's Rogers Center before long.

The economic shot in the arm for the cash-strapped province from a potential UFC pay-per-view event that garners international media attention looks to have forced McGuinty to tap out.

"We have an Athletics Control Act, and we have to make sure the rules that apply in that act are going to be the same for MMA sports," consumer services minister Sophia Aggelonitis said on the weekend.

Ontario's Athletic Commission will receive a slice of the UFC gates, and the province expects to reap $6 million annually in economic spin-offs from its promotional events.

To force McGuinty's hand, UFC's White earlier this year opened an office in Toronto, and named former Canadian Football League commissioner Tom Wright to head up UFC Canada as president.

The UFC already does 17% of its new media and pay-per-view TV business in Canada, and has staged MMA events in Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.

UFC TV series also blanket Canadian cable schedules.

But Ontario beckoned, and Canada's largest province long banned the fast-growing UFC TV sport on grounds it was prize fighting, and so banned under the federal criminal code.

Individual provinces can exempt boxing and MMA events and sanction those sports, and now Ontario has.

The UFC will now get a stab at Toronto, Canada's most lucrative sports market, with rich broadcast rights dollars up for grabs.
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