Vancouver Legalises Mixed Martial Arts AgainFollowing a three-hour debate this morning, the Vancouver City Council has passed a motion to once again allow regulated mixed martial arts events in the city. By a vote of 6 to 3, Council approved a two-year trial period during which MMA will return to Vancouver for the first time since a ban in September of 2007.

The decision comes in the wake of a one-off Honour Combat Championships amateur MMA event on November 27th, which was attended by two council members and was considered to be a great success.

Mixed martial arts events took place in and around the city of Vancouver prior to its September 2007 banning and Council previously upheld the ban in March of this year. Citing a need to obtain more information on the sport before making a decision, members of Council, to their credit, did extensive research on the sport and its impact on cities which permit and regulate events.

Armed with knowledge that was not available to Council in the past, all reports leading up to today’s meeting were positive and suggested that mixed martial arts fans in Vancouver would once again be able to attend regulated events. The two-year trial period will extend until early 2012 when Council revisits the issue and assesses the benefits that the sport brings to the city.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, which had representatives at the meeting who spoke at length in favour of the motion, has already expressed interest in coming to Vancouver as early as June 2010 at General Motors Place. The promotion has previously held a pair of hugely successful events at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Québec.

Should the June event go ahead as planned, it may feature current UFC Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St. Pierre. The French-Canadian star, who was just named Canadian Athlete of the Year for the second time, will defend his title against Dan “The Outlaw” Hardy in March at UFC 111 in New Jersey.

General Motors Place - Vancouver, B.C.

The decision allows other promotions, including smaller regional shows in the area, to showcase their own events. This may lead to neighbouring cities, such as Victoria, following suit and allowing MMA within their city limits as well. The economic benefit is considerable and early estimates suggest that a single event at GM Place in Vancouver could net over $1.5 million for the city.

The Vancouver Athletic Commission, which previously sanctioned and oversaw MMA events when it was legal in the past, will report back in 2012 at the conclusion of the trial period. During this time, there will be strict controls on licensing, sanctioning and health and safety matters. B.C.’s Attorney General approved of the plan.

The return of the sport to B.C.’s largest city will hopefully pave the way for mixed martial arts in Ontario, which remains as the only major market left in the country that still outlaws MMA competition. Alberta, Manitoba, Québec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia all sanction events, with Alberta and Québec maintaining the sport’s primary markets.

Next for the UFC will be the state of New York, which the promotion regards as the Holy Grail of untapped MMA markets. The sport remains banned in the state, despite the best efforts to date of UFC President Dana White. He aims to change that in the first half of 2010.