CALGARY — The UFC will visit Calgary for the first time on July 21, with shows in Toronto and Montreal planned for later this year.
UFC 149, slated for the Scotiabank Saddledome, will mark the MMA organization’s ninth show in Canada and its first in Alberta. More than 200,000 fans attended the first eight with more than $40 million in gate receipts.
Featherweight champion Jose Aldo will defend his 145-pound title in Calgary. UFC president Dana White said it was too early to say who his opponent will be but promised it would be a “sick card.”
White also used his Calgary news conference to announce two other pay-per-view events in Canada in 2012: UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22 and UFC 154 in Montreal at the Bell Centre on Nov. 17.
“You guys are the best fans in the world … This place has been the mecca for mixed martial arts ever since we set foot in this country,” said White.
The Toronto show — which featherweight Mark (The Machine) Hominick announced via satellite from Toronto — will be either at the Air Canada Centre or Rogers Centre.
Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, shown from Los Angeles where he is rehabbing his knee, made the Montreal announcement on satellite.
St-Pierre, a Montreal native, said he will be able to resume full training in July and hoped he would be ready for November. When healthy, he is due to meet interim champion Carlos Condit next.
“When you get an injury like I had and you’re off for a long period of time, the only thing you wish is to come back as fast as possible,” St-Pierre said. “I don’t know whether it will be in the U.S. or Canada but I wish and I’m praying that I have a chance to perform in 2012, no matter where it will be.”
It will be the UFC’s fifth trip to Montreal and third to Toronto. It has also held two shows in Vancouver but the city has dropped down the pecking order recently due to a disagreement over financial arrangements, including insurance.
“Not in the next two years,” White said when asked if a show was planned for Vancouver.
The UFC is also committing to three pay-per-view shows in Canada in 2013 and 2014, with Toronto and Montreal becoming fixtures on the fight calendar just as Super Bowl weekend, Memorial Day, July 4 and New Year’s host annual fight cards in Las Vegas.
“Toronto and Montreal will become staple events on our calendar in 2013 and 2014. And that third Canadian event will rotate among other major Canadian markets,” said Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of Canadian operations.
Wright says the plan is to hold a show annually the third week in September in Toronto in 2013 and 2014. The Montreal date will likely be the third Saturday in March — UFC 145 was slated for March 24 this year but was later postponed and moved to Atlanta due to issues with organizing a main event.
The third Canadian date would be in the summer, rotated through different cities with Wright saying Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Quebec City, Vancouver and Winnipeg are among possible venues.
But White included Calgary as part of the annual Canadian circuit for the next two years.
Wright said there were plans to meet with Vancouver city council to see if a way can be paved for future shows.
The UFC set attendance records in both Montreal and Toronto.
Alberta has proved to be an MMA-fertile market with Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald, Nick (The Promise) Ring, Nick (The Quiet Assassin) Penner, Ryan (Big Deal) Jimmo and Mitch Clarke among current UFC fighters based there.
Alberta’s Tim (The Thrashing Machine) Hague and Victor Valimaki have also fought in the UFC.
Alberta is also home to several MMA promotions including Edmonton-based Maximum Fighting Championship, Canada’s largest, and Aggression MMA.
The July show comes the week after the 100th Calgary Stampede.
“We think this city’s going to be alive, it’ going to be exciting,” said Wright. “We think if there’s a city that we haven’t been to in Canada … Calgary’s a fantastic place to bring the UFC.”
Said Red Deer’s MacDonald: “It’s a dream come true for me.”
He added the Calgary show, if he’s on it, would serve as his retirement fight
The WEC, which the UFC has since folded into its parent organization, held an event in June 2010 in Edmonton.
The UFC does not typically announce fights so far into the future but Wright said early word can only help fans.
“It’s all about providing visibility to these key dates on our Canadian calendar for our fans,” he said. “You know how our fans travel, particularly across Canada, to all these different events.
“Having consistency of dates and calendars, people want to be able to plan.”
The Calgary show will be overseen by the Calgary Combative Sports Commission.
Wright said tickets will go on sale for the Calgary show in the second week of May, with an announcement on exactly when set for next month.