Promoter eyes Sarnia, Ontario event
Promoter eyes Sarnia event
Woodrow James says he intends to be among the first in line for licensing when mixed martial arts makes its debut in Ontario as a legal sport.
The MMA promoter in Sarnia has helped organize 11 Battle at the Border contests featuring U.S. and Canadian fighters. But the events were staged in Michigan because the MMA is illegal in Ontario.
That will change in the new year and, with the Ministry of Consumer Services announcing it will accept applications for professional events starting Jan. 1, James said a Sarnia venue could be in the cards.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- the heavyweight of MMA promotions -- has already announced it will host UFC 131 on April 30 at the Rogers Centre.
The event is expected to draw a record crowd for a UFC event.
James said the RBC Centre would be a great venue for a local MMA card.
"You might as well go huge. I'm sure the (RBC Centre) could fill up for a couple of shows," he said.
James, who trains with Sarnia Supreme MMA, said local interest is strong.
"There are so many good professional fighters in the States in this area that we could bring in to fight our local guys," he said. "There's no question, we could make such a big event."
Sarnia is also home to Supreme MMA owner and Canadian featherweight champion John Fraser.
"This could be awesome," James said. "We could bring in a big name star to face him, an international guy from one of the reality shows, something like that."
Government officials estimate a major MMA event in Ontario could attract 30,000 fans and generate up to $6 million in local economic activity.
Fighters will be subject to blood testing, physicals and eye exams before any bout, as well as testing for enhancing and illegal drugs when required by the promoter.
Rules for MMA in Ontario will be the same as in New Jersey -- the most widely used rules in North America.
Ontario regulations for professional boxing and kickboxing, including physicals and competitor licensing, will also be extended to include MMA.
"A lot of places, even for professionals, you just need blood work and that doesn't mean I'm safe enough to fight," James said. "So I'm glad they're doing this."
The sport is currently legal in Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and at the municipal level in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick, and allowed in 46 U.S. states.
James said many of the local fighters who have competed in Battle at the Border amateur bouts plan to turn professional.
"It's just good timing," he said. "It's just good for people to be able to make a living in their own area."