“(Canada) has been the mecca for mixed martial arts ever since we set foot in this country,” UFC president Dana White recently stated when talking about his company’s commitment to Canada over the next few years.
With Brazil entering the picture with swiftly selling events, the first international edition of The Ultimate Fighter, and a rematch between UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen apparently headed towards an attendance-record-setting event in Rio de Janeiro, the question now is whether or not Canada can maintain its grasp on mecca status.
The UFC has only operated eight events in Canada since its first show in Montreal in 2008, but they’ve amassed some rather impressive statistics during that span.
“Over 200,000 fans have attended in three host cities: Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. Over $40 million in gate. God knows what the economic impact of holding these events was,” said White at a press conference in Calgary, announcing UFC 149 and a three-year, three-events-per-year commitment to Canada.
“The first one in Montreal was huge. People flew in from all over the world. Broke records, the North American (MMA attendance) record in Toronto, where people came in from all over the world.”
UFC 129, the Toronto event that White mentioned, drew over 55,000 fans for more than $12 million in gate receipts, pushing the eight-event average to roughly 25,000 in attendance per event.
White, at the Calgary press conference, not only announced UFC 149 for Calgary, UFC 152 for Toronto, and UFC 154 for Montreal, in 2012, but added that the promotion will return at least three times per year annually through 2014.
Brazil may have leap-frogged Canada in the race to become the first international location for the UFC’s long-running reality series with The Ultimate Fighter: Brasil, but Canada will have ample opportunity to defend its designation as the mecca of MMA.