UFC 97 Still In Montreal?Canadian UFC fans may have a new public enemy number one.

Thanks to Stephane Paltry’s Strikebox promotion, which recently held a show in Montreal that had more beer can throwing than fighting, it appears Quebec regulators are taking a serious look at major rule changes that may jeopardize UFC 97 from taking place in Montreal.

Changes the commission may implement could affect UFC 97, the Las Vegas-based promotion’s second event in Canada, which is scheduled for April 18 at the Bell Centre in Montreal and for which tickets went on sale Wednesday.

Sources close to the say these could include a requirement for a much smaller cage than the UFC’s patented Octagon, prohibiting elbow and knee strikes and requiring that the referee halt a bout should a fighter get knocked down from a strike in order to ensure the downed fighter is okay to continue.

A lot of things make Dana White angry, but hardly anything makes him as mad as when someone else in the industry does something to set back the progress the UFC has made with mainstream perception and government regulation. You have to imagine he flipped his lid upon hearing the news, and rightfully so.

That wouldn’t be the only reason why either. The UFC 97 ticket presale just started, and according to Dave Meltzer, they’ve already sold a ton of tickets.

Tickets went on sale today to fight club members and as of a few hours ago, they had sold 13,000 tickets for $3 million. They don’t even go on sale to the public until Saturday and they may sellout before they even officially go on sale to the public.

There appears to be a small glimmer of hope however. Marc Ratner is apparently well aware of the news and working on it with the athletic commission.

I spoke with Marc Ratner of UFC who confirmed that this issue is going on and that they are trying to work with the commission to get the unified MMA rules back in place.

No word yet on if the UFC is attempting to book a backup venue, but you have to imagine that’s something they’re working on if the situation is as serious as these reports make it out to be.

Sorry Montreal, at least you know who to blame.

[UPDATE 2/13/09 12:56AM ET] – This is definitely serious. From MMA Junkie:

Réjean Thériault, the communications director for the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, which governs alcohol, racing, gambling and combat sports in Quebec, told CorusSports the UFC’s use of elbows and knees to the head do not currently fall in line with the commission’s policies.

The commission’s current policies only apply to boxing, kickboxing and mixed boxing and do not provide regulations on the use of a cage. Thériault told CorusSports that if the UFC was unable to adapt its own policies to the commission’s regulations, the company would not be welcome for its planned April 18 event.

What’s really strange is that the commission apparently wasn’t even aware UFC 83 even took place. How that is possible is beyond me.

[UPDATE 2/13/09 11:02AM ET] – Apparently, too much blame is being placed on Paltry and Strikebox. From Sherdog:

Though Thériault acknowledges that the Strikebox/Titans fiasco played a role in what appears to be a sudden adherence to the rules on hand, he said the decision has already been in the works for some time.

“[The Strikebox scenario] was an important part of getting us to this point, but Richard Renaud [Director of the Division of Combat Sports in the RACJ], who is replacing Mario LaTraverse, has been working with the President of the RACJ, Denis Racicot to change the sport, and noted that we had tolerated the [past] rules,” Thériault said.

Ratner believes LaTraverse’s retirement from the commission has also played a role in the recent events, but sees a positive outcome on the horizon.

Props to Fightlinker for pointing this out.