Canadian mixed martial arts has visibly gone downhill over the years — every Canadian fan knows that. The UFC hosts less and less events in the ‘True North,’ proven by the cancellation of the Toronto show last year and a rumored Windsor event this past March.
Canadian Local MMA at an All-Time Low
One reason for this is simply the number of Canadians in the UFC. Currently, there are 28 Canadians signed to the premier MMA promotion, and only a handful are listed in the official rankings. Ever since the departure of former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, there has yet to be another huge Canadian star. Rory MacDonald could become a title holder in July, when he faces Robbie Lawler for the welterweight belt, and even if he does win, it’s not a given he becomes an instant star.
So, what is the reasoning for top-level Canadian MMA going downhill? Local MMA.
Without a local fight scene, prospects and future stars can’t be developed. Without local shows, fighters that have a dream to fight in the big leagues in front of thousands, can’t get enough experience to “make it.” Right now, the Canadian local scene is at an all-time low. Sure, British Columbia has their Battlefield Fight League and Fivestar Fight League. Alberta and Quebec also have their fair share of local shows.
The Prairies are out of luck, as is Ontario, which is located in The Canadian Shield region. Let’s talk about Winnipeg, Manitoba — where I was born and still live. A few years back, we had a local show headquartered in Winnipeg called Canadian Fighting Championship. They hosted a total of seven events, and things were going smooth, however that didn’t last forever. They closed their doors in 2013. Also, another local promotion, Aggression Fighting Championship, hosted 18 events all across Canada, but WSOF Canada acquired them, also in 2013.
So, you’re asking, what happened next? Nothing.
King of the Cage visited Winnipeg once in September of last year, but that’s been the only event since the departure of both promotions, CFC and AFC.
Fighters based out of Winnipeg have had no recent luck finding fights. It’s literally a dead end. There are no professional fights in Manitoba right now, and the closest province with pro-MMA is Alberta. The problem, though, is Manitoban fighters haven’t been able to get fights in Alberta because they simply aren’t needed there.
“I have a gym full of fighters that can’t get fights and it’s super frustrating,” ex-UFC bantamweight Roland Delorme told MMASucka.com. “How the f*ck are we supposed to get to the next level if you only get one fight a year?”
If you head south to the United States of America, you run into the Visa issue. To fight in the USA as a foreigner, you need a working Visa but to obtain one, the promoter of the fight card must pay for it. It’s very difficult to get them to do so, especially if you’re a no-name fighter. The only way you’ll end up being allowed to fight south of the border is if the promoters think it’s worth having you on their card. That requires some form of name value — being a former UFC fighter, a well known rising prospect — but the promoters don’t want unknown fighters.
“We used to be way ahead of the rest of the world but now we are falling way behind because we have zero amateur program,” Delorme added.
There’s no such thing as an amateur program in Canada. An amateur program is when you get a few amateur fights, and build confidence. If you rack up a winning record, you’ll be allowed to turn semi-professional, and eventually professional. However, there aren’t even amateur fights in Manitoba — they’re illegal, for whatever reason. B.C., Alberta, and Quebec have them, but no other provinces. There is essentially no way Manitobans, Saskatchewanians, or Ontarians can fight, at a regional level.
Something, obviously, has to be done. An amateur program should be developed for the entire country, but never mind that, at least legalize amateur fights in Manitoba and other provinces. New promotions need to be brought in to provide local up-and-comers with fights, so they can make it to the big league — the UFC. Without amateur fights and professional fights for the regional scene, there’s no such thing as top level Canadian MMA, because only a few provinces have active local MMA. Within a matter of time, the remaining Canadian fighters currently signed to the UFC will retire, and the ratio for Canadians leaving the UFC and entering is far greater on the leaving side. That needs to be changed. There should be more Canadians being signed, but the only way that will happen is if provinces like Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan get active fight promotions, allowing their regional fighters to compete. The UFC needs this. The fighters need this. It’s time for change.