Sooner or later, Vancouver must drop its guard and let in the UFC
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Millions of sports fans set the Beijing Summer Olympics aside for a few hours last Saturday evening -- and instead tuned to the fast growing world of mixed martial arts.
Canadian Georges St. Pierre successfully defended his title in the Ultimate Fighting Championship ring before a capacity crowd in Minneapolis.
Unless someone has been living in a cave these past few years, it's been difficult not to notice the rising popularity of MMA competitions.
Pay-per-view events eclipse the combined audiences of both professional wrestling and boxing.
A recent UFC event in Montreal sold out instantly with some 21,000 fans cheering hometown hero St. Pierre, who reclaimed the championship.
But don't expect the UFC or any other major promotion to host an MMA show in Vancouver anytime soon.
While major cities throughout North America and Europe are literally begging the UFC to come to town, Vancouver has clearly laid out the "not welcome" mat.
Vancouver city council voted last year against sanctioning MMA events, citing insurance and liability issues.
But there was much more to it than those mealy-mouth excuses. There were numerous voices likening MMA bouts to human cock-fighting.
Vancouver city council's stalling tactics are little more than a crass exhibition of denial. MMA is huge; it's here to stay.
It's bizarre that, with Vancouver a world-class city in so many respects, successive city councils can't get past their nanny instincts.
True, Vancouver is not the only city to make life difficult for MMA fans and promoters.
Chilliwack recently voted to deny the sport access to city-owned facilities and stressed the negative social impact of MMA. Mind you, as a resident of Chilliwack, I'm sure there are councillors who would ban dancing, given half a chance.
MMA continues struggling to live down its early days when contests were hyped as no-holds-barred bloodfests.
Critics profess their own ignorance by failing to acknowledge how regulated, professional and safe the sport has since become.
Ultimately, MMA is a combination of kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and a handful of other combat arts.
Organizations promoting each of these regularly hold events with no controversy whatsoever. So why all the fuss over MMA? All too often we see influential voices parroting this attack on one form of entertainment or another.
Unable or unwilling to address a host of social problems, they single out various segments of popular culture as the latest culprits. Whether its video games, rap music or MMA, there always seems to be a new bogeyman with which to divert attention.
Vancouver city council will have to tap out sooner or later during this scrap. So they may as well throw in the towel and get it over with.
John Martin, a criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley, can be reached at John.Martin@ucfv.ca