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LAS VEGAS – In U.S. politics, there are red states and blue states. Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White sees them as green states, yellow states, white states and gray states, however.
And when a little more green was added to his map on Monday, he was as thrilled as he has been at any point in the nearly nine years he's owned the UFC.
On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill that will regulate mixed martial arts in the state. That turned it from a yellow state to a green one on White's map and guaranteed a summer card at the TD Garden in Boston.
Green states, in White's world, are the ones where the state sanctions MMA. When he and partners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC in January 2001, only New Jersey sanctioned and regulated MMA.
After the addition of Massachusetts on Monday, there are 42 states where MMA is regulated in the U.S. There is legislation pending (yellow states) in New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Alabama. There is nothing happening at the moment in Vermont (white state) and there is no athletic commission in either Wyoming or Alaska (gray states).
"This is a huge day for the sport," White said. "I remember what that mapped looked like when we started and how so many people thought we'd never get here."
White had spoken of putting a card at Boston's Fenway Park, but said for the first show, he decided it will be sometime in the summer at the TD Garden. He said Fenway is the only place he'd consider on the mainland for an outdoor show.
White graduated from high school in New England and lived and worked in Boston. He was desperate to get the sport sanctioned in his old stomping grounds.
"Of all the states we got done, this is my favorite," he said. "Obviously, Las Vegas, getting Nevada done was huge, but to be going to Boston, I'm giddy. I love the city and I've been waiting a long time for this day."
Much of the credit for the UFC's success in turning the country almost entirely green goes to Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs, who has done a magnificent job of working with the various legislatures and politicians.
With that, let's get to the mailbag where there are a wide range of topics, including the subject of sanctioning of MMA in Canada.
UFC in T.O.
With as much success as the UFC has had in Montreal, I'm hoping that there is an event coming to Toronto on the horizon. I know that this city would sell out the Air Canada Centre in no time. Hell, if Georges St. Pierre headlines, the UFC might be able to have a show at the Rogers Centre and it could seat 60,000-plus! So tell me, is there an ETA to MMA in T.O.?
Unfortunately, no. MMA is still not legal in Ontario, though the UFC is lobbying hard to have that change and legislation is pending there. For the record, MMA is sanctioned in all Canadian provinces but Ontario and Saskatchewan. In order for it to become legal in Ontario, a federal criminal code must be changed and Ratner said he will be in Ottawa sometime before the end of the year to work on that. Once that's done, Ratner said the athletic commission in Ontario would then have to adopt regulations to sanction the sport. I asked White how he thought the UFC would fare at the gate in Toronto and I can assure you he more than shares your enthusiasm about its potential. "If we held a show in Ontario, it would be the biggest fight ever and it would set a record (for gate and attendance) that wouldn't be broken for a long, long time."
Odd TV choice
Why did Dana show me a free fight on Spike TV on the night of UFC 106, then when I made the purchase he showed me the same fight again on the pay-per-view broadcast? I will not make that mistake again. I am also tired of hearing "Don't let the fight go to the judges." How about getting some decent judges?
It was related to timing, Barry. They showed every fight from the card but one on the pay-per-view broadcast. They had holes because some fights ended early, but didn't have the time to show a full 15-minute fight. They filled with bouts that had aired on Spike, so some folks saw them twice. The only fight that didn't get aired was the bout between Caol Uno and Fabricio Camoes. As for the judging, the quality needs to improve, but no promoter has control of that. That's under the purview of the state athletic commissions. As much as I hate some of the controversial calls, I will note that MMA is a young sport and that the quality of the judging will improve as time passes and judges are developed.
Rampage acting out
If Quinton "Rampage" Jackson wants to make a change in his life and become an actor instead of a fighter, I say go for it! Regardless of his fame as a fighter, the man is entitled to run his own life. I enjoyed watching his fights as much as the next guy, but I'm not the one who wears the marks at the end of the day. He will fit the bill as B.A Baraucus (in The A-Team movie) pretty well too, in my book. So rock and roll to your own tune, Rampage!! I for one look forward to his theatrical debut.
I have no problem with Rampage wanting to act or do anything else with his life. He's free to do that. But he walked out on a commitment. When he agreed to coach on the show, part of that commitment was to fight Rashad Evans at UFC 107. That's my only issue with what he's done. By the way, for those wondering, White said Tuesday that Jackson would not be at Saturday's card.
Why did the UFC bring back Phil "One-Round" Baroni? I don't get it. Also, I think a title fight between GSP and Dan Hardy is a joke. GSP for FTW (For The Win) all the way. What are your thoughts about this fight? I'd rather see GSP vs. Chris Lytle because at least it would be exciting. Also, has GSP forgotten that the fans would prefer it if he would finish a fight before the end of the fifth round?
I have no explanation for why the UFC brought Baroni back and haven't heard one that made sense from anyone with the promotion. There are many better fighters who deserve that opportunity. I, too, favor St. Pierre heavily over Hardy and would honestly rather see Koscheck get a title shot ahead of Hardy. As much as I like Lytle as an exciting fighter, he wouldn't stand a chance, in my opinion, of beating St. Pierre and hasn't earned a championship bout. And while two of his last three fights have gone to decision, look at the quality of the opposition. Wins over Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves are great on anyone's resume.
I am wondering why the fans were booing Tito Oritz at UFC 106 when he brought up his injuries. Was it not Forrest Griffin who started with injury excuses before Tito said anything? I think fans need to open their eyes, don't you?
They booed because after weeks of talking how healthy he was, his first comments after the fight were complaints about injuries. I think many thought he was being hypocritical and not giving Griffin enough credit. But you guys pay your money to see the fights and you have the right to boo or cheer whoever you want.
I think the biggest problem that Tito has is that when he has a training camp, it is Camp Tito. He needs to change it up and train with some new people (i.e., Jackson's, Xtreme Couture, etc.) so he can sharpen his skills. Rich Franklin is a great example of someone who stuck to the same training for years, but to keep up with everyone else he needed to go to train with Matt Hume.
There may be something to your point. Tito did train boxing with Freddie Roach, though I wasn't particularly impressed with his standup.
I'm just wondering what is going on with Bobby Lashley? I see he is doing TNA [pre wrestling] again. Is he having a hard time getting fights? I believe he is an up-and-coming star with a lot of tools to really be a force in the sport. Do you see him getting into the UFC at all? Wouldn't be cool to see him against Kimbo Slice?
Traverse City, Mich.
I like Lashley as a quality, developing prospect, but he still has a way to go. White said the UFC has not spoken to him at this stage. Lashley has had conversations with Strikeforce and if I had to guess, I'd bet he winds up there next.