Ontario To Regulate MMA; UFC Eyes 2011 DebutFans in Ontario, Canada may finally be able to attend live mixed martial arts events in 2011 without travelling beyond the provincial borders. The Ontario government announced today that the province will regulate MMA and the sport’s top promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is eyeing a 2011 Ontario debut that could happen as early as March.

The announcement represents a stark contrast from comments made by Premier Dalton McGuinty earlier this year, but the UFC credits Minister of Consumer Services Sophia Aggelonitis for assisting in the process.

UFC President Dana White has stated that he sees the province of Ontario as a “mecca” for mixed martial arts and MMA fans, and believes that a UFC event held in the city of Toronto could draw as many as 30,000 fans at the Rogers Centre. The venue also plays home to the city’s Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and is capable of housing over 60,000 people depending on the seating arrangements and event layout used.

Fans may not have to wait long, as Toronto radio station CFTR-AM 680News reported this morning that the UFC has reserved the Rogers Centre for an unspecified date in March 2011. Should the provincial regulation and the March event both move ahead, the card would no doubt feature many of the top Canadian fighters on the UFC’s talent-laden roster. Some notable fighters, such as Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout, would be able to compete in their home province of Ontario for the first time in the UFC.

Previously, a primary obstacle in the battle to have MMA regulated in Ontario was the province’s interpretation of Section 83 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which effectively outlawed MMA. The section stipulates that anyone involved with “prize fights” – anything other than amateur or professional (kick)boxing fights using gloves of no less than 140 grams – will be “guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.” Mixed martial arts previously fell into the realm of a “prize fight” and was therefore outlawed in the province.

According to Aggelonitis, the Ontario government has been monitoring MMA for a long time and she stated that the safety record of the sport and the potential for economic gain made the move to regulate MMA a natural process. “We know that the sport has evolved and that Ontarians want to see it here. My goal is to make sure we have the tools to keep the competitors safe and provide an economic boost to communities that want to host professional MMA events.”

The state of New York in the United States remains one of the few holdouts in North America in the ongoing campaign to have MMA legalised in every region. There remains hope that New York will take similar steps to those of Ontario today and that a UFC event could take place in the state next year.