VANCOUVER — Vancouver city council has approved a two-year trial period for mixed martial arts, opening the door for an Ultimate Fighting Championship show in the city as soon as next summer.
Councillors voted six to three Thursday to allow Vancouver to regulate and sanction the combat sport, which is expected to generate millions of dollars for the local economy.
UFC president Dana White, who has Vancouver pencilled in for a show next year, was quick to celebrate the news.
“Vancouver is sanctioned!!!,” he said via Twitter. “Another one down! Thanks to everyone in Vancouver who helped. See you in 2010.”
Under the pilot program, promoters such as the UFC must ensure the city can’t be held liable for damages.
Coun. Andrea Reimer, who voted against the motion, said she struggled with the idea of regulating a sport that promotes violence in its marketing material.
Reimer said she’s concerned that allowing mixed martial arts in Vancouver will spur young people to get involved in it.
“It’s become very hard for me to see the logic in passing this motion,” said the former school trustee.
“I’ve spent a lot of time as a school trustee dealing with the fallout of kids who have been desensitized to violence because of adult sanctioning of violence, but then adults also saying it’s not appropriate for children to participate in the same level of violence that we have sanctioned ourselves.”
Reimer said she’s hoping that marketing for the sport will be based on a high level of athletic ability, not violence.
But Coun. Geoff Meggs, who voted in favour of the motion, said even hockey promotes fighting.
“It’s turning into a problem for the National Hockey League,” he said, adding the number of concussions are high given the number of minutes that most players spend on the ice.
The UFC had said earlier it planned a show for June in Vancouver. White said recently Vancouver was still in the cards, but perhaps a little later than the original date.
In an e-mail update to subscribers, mixed martial arts promoter Maximum Fighting Championship cheered the vote results.
However, it said not everyone will be able to take part.
“Smaller promotions may still be out of luck as they will have to purchase enough insurance to indemnify the City of Vancouver from any liabilities,” the e-mail states. “There is no idea how much insurance would be required. The City Manager will determine the appropriate amount.”
The Maximum Fighting Championship said it will be applying “immediately” for a show next year. Montreal is the only Canadian city to date to host a UFC show, with UFC 83 in April 2008 and UFC 97 in April 2009. The 2008 card at the Bell Centre set a UFC record for fastest sellout.
The UFC, the largest promoter on the MMA scene, also hopes to hold a show in Ontario, which has yet to sanction the sport. The UFC just celebrated Massachusetts approving the sport.
The sport of mixed martial arts includes jujitsu, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and other forms of hand-to-hand combat.
It has gained more mainstream popularity in recent years with rules such as time limits and prohibiting of potentially dangerous strikes including head butts, biting and eye gouging.
So far in British Columbia, mixed martial arts fighting is sanctioned at the municipal level in Prince George, Nanaimo and other small towns. Montreal is expected to host its third mixed martial arts event in May, according to a city of Vancouver report.