The UFC champions a message of anti-bullying, and Canada is one of the UFC's top regions. It makes sense that the UFC would want to bring that message to Canada, right?
Not to everyone. After a Toronto councillor put his support behind the UFC circulating a brochure created by the UFC, another politician ripped the idea in the Toronto Star.
"I think it's a terrible idea," said Pamela Gough, TDSB trustee for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. "Schools are all about peacemaking right now . . . we don't want to promote violence, we don't want to promote fighting."
The UFC isn't in schools to actually teach MMA; instead it wants to use its stature to talk about the problems with bullying. In a rally held in Toronto on Tuesday, four fighters talked about their experiences with bullying to children and took questions. The event was held in conjunction with the Toronto police.
Not everyone is against the UFC promoting anti-bullying. Doug Ford, the councillor who supported the idea in the first place, saw the positive in letting the UFC promote anti-bullying in schools.
"A lot of these kids, their idols are athletes, be it in football, or a hockey athlete, or a UFC athlete," Ford said in a telephone interview. "If we can get the message through some of their idols, I think it's a good message."
In April, the UFC made a $129,000 donation to a community center in Toronto. They often visit schools and martial arts centers in event cities to talk about the dangers of bullying. Georges St. Pierre, the welterweight champ and Canada's most successful fighter, often discusses how bullying affected him.
The fact is that with stretched budgets, schools are smart to partner with other groups, like the NFL has done with their Play 60 program. Football is a violent sport that produces injuries like concussions, broken bones, paralysis and even death. That doesn't make the NFL's message of 60 minutes of physical activity or support for physical education invalid.
Every school should have the right to vet its own partners, but that means taking a closer look at MMA and its athletes before dismissing a partnership. If the UFC can help students deal with bullying, then school officials and politicians should open their mind before turning down worthwhile help.