There's no panic coming from the UFC camp on the mess that is unfolding in Montreal with regards to the promotion legally holding a fight card there in nine weeks. But that isn't the vibe coming those in the know to the north.
The Quebec commission that oversees combat sports discovered sometime in the past two weeks that the unified rules of mixed martial arts is supposedly in direct violation of Quebec law. Amazingly, last year's record-breaking UFC 83 and dozens of MMA events have been held around the province for years, but they were all in violation of the commission's rules in place. Does this mean that UFC 97 is a no-go for Montreal on Apr. 18? The UFC has already sold 13,000 tickets in pre-sales and the remaining 8,000-plus are expected to sellout tomorrow morning in a matter of minutes.
You'd figure it would be freakout time in Las Vegas at the UFC's headquarters but that's not the case. UFC president Dana White confidently declared today that the event will happen in Montreal:
"We'll definitely, definitely be in Montreal, no doubt about it,"
White told Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole. "This fight sold out faster than the last one."
Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press has been tracking the story and he doesn't sound quite so optimistic:
"At the beginning of the day I thought that this was something they could fix," Davidson told Cage Writer. "But I have to say there's a chance (UFC 97) could not happen. If the government is digging its heels in, there are some pretty major differences between these rules. Right now it's a total mess and an embarrassment."
Some of the rules revelations include:
- Hitting with a bent knee or elbow is deemed a foul
- Once a fighter is knocked down, the opponent must go to a neutral corner
- No judo throws (fighter can't be dumped on his head)
- Limits on the cage size (UFC's Octagon is beyond the allowable size)
Davidson said it comes down to a liability issue:
"If somebody was thrown on his head, which by the way is illegal under Quebec rules, and they were injured they could sue the province."
Click to hear Davidson talk about UFC 97 possibly being banished from Canada (ESPNRadio1100 w/Cofield & Cokin):
In talking to the communications director, Réjean Thériault, from the Quebec commission that oversees combat sports, racing, gaming and alcohol, Davidson said the message was clear - the rules followed by the UFC are illegal and the law is the law in Quebec. In response to the notion that a session could be called to change the rules, Thériault indicated that the rules can't be changed for at least year.
If the UFC needs to use Las Vegas as a backup to move UFC 97, the Mandalay Bay Events Center is already booked on Apr. 18 while the bigger MGM Grand Garden Arena does appear to be available.
Listen to UFC VP Marc Ratner with Showdown Joe Ferraro on the Fan590 in Toronto.