Canada in recent years has become known as a mecca for mixed martial arts, an honor that has been contested recently by Brazil, but to the mainstream sports fan, there is not contesting the heart of Canadian sports. Just as baseball is synonymous with American sports, hockey beats in the heart of Canadian fans.
With the NHL (National Hockey League) in full lockout mode right now, however, hockey night in Canada has been shut down, leaving fans in a lurch.
Fear not, says UFC Canada boss Tom Wright, the promotion is stepping in to save the day.
UFC 152: Jones vs. Belfort takes place Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre – which holds upwards of 20,000 fans for concerts – with Wright promising to return in September of 2013 and 2014, as well.
While the promotion isn’t drawing the attention that it did with Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields at UFC 129 in April of 2011 – when it drew nearly 56,000 fans to the Rogers Centre – Wright believes that the absence of hockey leaves the UFC with a golden opportunity.
“It's the third time in a very short period of time,” commented Wright, when asked about the lower level of zest surrounding UFC 152 compared to UFC 129. “I think there is a lot of competition for the sports dollar.”
But despite less pep in the UFC’s step than there was for UFC 129, Wright is confident that the fighters will deliver the goods and give forlorn hockey fans something to root for.
“I think right now what's really exciting is there is going to be a great opportunity for Canadians to watch and engage in our sport because there is a void right now,” stated Wright. “Hockey is on lockout. There are a lot of fans that want to watch sports and we'll happily fill that void.
“We may not have hockey night in Canada, but we can have UFC night in Canada and we'll fill that void.”