When the news hit a few days ago that Montreal would indeed be hosting UFC 97, many fans who had tickets were overjoyed and simply did not care why, how, or what had happened the day before to allow the event to go on as scheduled.
Those who do care, however, now have a little bit of an idea as to how the UFC was able to convince Quebec officials that they had nothing to worry about.
The UFC brought four big hitters to Tuesday’s meeting: co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, vice-president Marc Ratner, CEO Kirk Hendrick and general counsel Lawrence Epstein. Included in the other camp were Richard Renault, the new head of the Quebec Boxing Commission and his boss — the head of the Regie des Alcools, des courses et des jeux, the Quebec agency that oversees the commission — plus a commission official and several lawyers.
The meeting lasted one hour and when it was over, the show had the thumbs up.
It helped that Fertitta, Ratner and Hendrick were all former members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, people who used to be the gatekeepers of the sport like the Quebec commission. Even in Quebec, they spoke the same language.
Objections were raised and dealt with one by one, according to a source. Elbow strikes? Not allowed, countered the UFC — at least when the elbow is in the 12 to six position. Referees checking on downed opponents? The UFC argued that its refs were the best in the business in protecting a fighter who cannot continue. Knees? The two sides discussed taking and delivering knees. Size of the cage? The commission waived the rules definition. Judo-type throws? Never came up.
It will now be quite interesting to see what this means for future shows held in Quebec by smaller, less established organizations. In fact, there are a few fight cards scheduled in the province over the next few weeks, and we should all have our answers by then. Let’s face it, not every mixed martial arts show in Quebec will bring in the same amount of revenue as both UFC 83 and UFC 97 will prove to, and this may be a major reason officials are making minor legal changes before putting their foot down. Hopefully these events will take place as planned, and we can put this all behind us. It would be a shame if the UFC were to turn their back on Canada because they feel it is simply not worth all the headaches it has caused.
For now we can all look forward to April 18th when the UFC makes its return to the Great White North. Here’s hoping that it will continue to be an annual event, eh?