With the news that UFC 149 Calgary tickets sold out in record time last week, it re-inforces the popular belief that many parts of Canada are starved to watch the top mixed martial artist’s come to their city and compete.
The UFC has banked on that hunger and made a very big committment to Canada in the next few years, and the speed and storm of the Calgary ticket sales is a good indication that Dana White, Tom Wright and the UFC know what they are doing.
As someone who covers all the major shows in Ontario and in Canada, there are some fans and media members out in the universe right now who are backlashing a bit, hating on Canada and feeling like the UFC is paying a special focus and playing favorites to the fans north of the border. Crowds are getting called out by the likes of Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren and some MMA media are making cracks via twitter during shows held in Canada, as well as questioning why the fight cards are better for Canadian shows.
I wanted to dig into this topic and reached out to a few experienced MMA writers in the States to get some opinion on whether the UFC is playing favorites, or are they right in their strategy to focus on the Canadian market?
Jonathon Snowden, author of “Total MMA” and “The MMA Encyclopedia” gave me his thoughts on Canadian favoritism.
“I think Dana White is absolutely right to pay special attention to the Canadian fans. Those fans are some of the UFC’s most loyal customers. They support the promotion on pay per view and deserve the great shows and main events that they get.
I remember there was a time that Canadian pro wrestling fans prided themselves in being iconoclasts. There were different good guys and bad guys in Canada and the fans always supported their own, even when Bret Hart was at his most nefarious. Like most regions of the world, they take special note of local fighters. If fans want to see Canadians highlighted on events held in Canada- why not give it to them? It’s a spectator sport after all.”
Brian Oswald Editor at Bleacher Report MMA had this to say.
“I guess I dont have an overly strong opinion on Canada and its relationship to MMA – that being said I tend to think of Canadians as passionate fun loving fans. I would assume that the UFC puts on good fights there because it is a big market full of dedicated fans – not sure why else they would do it. Plus I dont know how many big fights they actually get as a lot of their “big fights” are the GSP fights. I would have to look at past fight cards to really say but dont see any reason as to why they shouldn’t be getting big fights. If anything, England gets screwed over but again there has to be a reason the UFC favors Canada over England. As far as Canadian fighters I am not sure how many top level fighters they have outside of GSP. Mark Hominick has dropped off. Rory MacDonald is shaping up to be something special.”
MMA writer, MMA Programming Coordinator for Bleacher Report, and E-book author Matt Saccaro confirmed the sentiment.
Of course they are. The fanbase up there is huge and the nation has turned into an unexpected hotbed. There was an interview with Dana White where he stated the original intent of the UFC’s expansion. He said him and Lorenzo had wanted to bring the UFC into places where boxing was traditionally very popular (Mexico, UK, et cetera), expecting MMA to catch on there. In that same interview, he says he never expected Canada to embrace the sport so well and to become such fanatics.”
I asked him if he thought Canadian fans were as knowledgable as advertised or are they over-rated?
“Canadians were avid fans of professional wrestling—they took that stuff seriously. I watched a Bret Hart documentary (NOT the one made by WWE) where you can see some of the Canadian fans and these guys are for real.
Imho, it was the seeds sewn by pro wrestling that made MMA end up getting so popular in Canada, since the two occupy similar roles in the sport’s world. As a result of this, Canadian MMA fans expect ENTERTAINMENT rather than what some might call point-fighting or lay and pray (what Askren was accused of doing).
So, I don’t think they’re overrated in that sense. It’s just that their cultural lineage of pro wrestling has influenced their pysche.”
Sentiment seems to be that the UFC is giving Canada the type of attention and committment that they deserve and if there is a lean or favoritism towards the country right now, that it was earned through loyal support in the early, struggling days of the UFC.
It seems the vibe of hate and envy was only a figment of my imagination