In July, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will make its debut in Alberta. ufc, the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world, will host a fight at Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome on July 21. The Saddledome can accommodate roughly 20,000 people, and is expected to be sold out for the event.
Calgary is consistently in the top-five markets in the world in pay-per-view per capita for ufc fights. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are the three Canadian cities that have hosted the ufc, each successfully. Over $12 million was made on ticket prices alone in Toronto in April, and Montreal has hosted four ufc events, all with significant monetary gain and recognition for the city.
The trip to Calgary will be a first for the ufc. Not everyone, however, is thrilled with the venue choice.
Since the option for hosting an event in Calgary was announced, the Canadian Medical Association has come out with extreme opposition to mma and is calling for an outright ban across the country. Currently, mma is legal in most of Canada-- it is still illegal in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and Nunavut. In Alberta, regulation is overseen by the municipal government.
The majority of concern stems from the very core of what ufc entails: violence.
"It's the commercialization of violence, it sets a very bad example for children," said cma president Dr. John Haggie in a City News Toronto report. "It's not a sport in my book."
mma has a long history, the roots of which can be traced back to the ancient Olympics. It was brought to America in 1993, and the ufc was born. Initially, ufc was 'anything goes,' but the danger soon became evident and strict rules came into place. The implemented rules banned the following: eye gouging of any kind, biting, grabbing a clavicle, skin twisting and throat strikes.
But are these rules enough to stop the supposed physical and social dangers of the ufc?
The cma doesn't think so. ufc has a reputation for brutality, one that is probably deserved. But when it comes to stopping two consenting individuals from "pummel[ing] each other," as Haggie puts it, who are we to stop them?
While the concerns against the ufc are logical, the same argument could be made for numerous other sports, including hockey, lacrosse and football-- the core of Canadian sports culture. While violence is not the purpose of these sports, it is still a huge part. Violence is a constant factor in the world of sports-- it is also what appeals to audiences.
For ufc fighters, the game goes beyond fighting in the ring. This is where the real problem lies. There is a reason the ufc is called a "promotion company" rather than a league. While fighters continue to shed blood and tears, Dana White, ufc's president, continues to take in royalties-- he is the pimp of ufc fighters. Although most fighters have strict contracts moderated by White, they generally do not receive a salary. Fighters are paid per fight. Monetary gain depend on how well-known they are, corporate sponsors of the fight and whether or not they win.
White eliminated fighter Miguel Torres from the ufc after he made a sexist comment, but did not take the same measures with two other fighters of greater market value for making similar remarks. It is clear that White is carefully objectifying his prospects. It's not about the fighters and has never been.
The only shot that fighters have to make a decent living is through The Ultimate Fighter, a reality show where the winner is determined through a series of fights and the top fighter receives a contract, with a salary. But the very idea is exploitative in nature. In a world where one must spend his lifetime training for fights, sometimes to no avail, the opportunity to make a decent living doesn't exist.
The way ufc is marketed puts it on the same level as World Wrestling Entertainment. ufc provides a spectacle for viewers, a form of entertainment where they can indulge in sadistic voyeurism. Like the Lingerie Football League, no one watches for their love of football. But at least the lfl used to give players a cut of its net revenue.
As long as ufc fighters understand what they are getting into, they should have every liberty to punch and kick (but not spit at) anyone they please. But you probably won't see us watching a match.