It has finally happened: mixed martial arts has been sanctioned for 2011 in Ontario, Canada.
This is the biggest untapped MMA market in North America, besides New York. This also marks a huge step forward in the progression of MMA from a sport in the shadow of boxing to a legitimate top four contender.
Canadians are fervent supporters of MMA, and with Ontario being the largest province in Canada, the potential for the sport is unlimited. The decision is even receiving support from one of the biggest names in MMA.
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre stated that he foresees MMA potentially passing hockey as the No. 1 sport in Canada.
To give you some perspective, the six Canadian NHL teams (from the 30-team league), contribute 40 percent of the league's TV revenue and over a third of the total league revenue. So if MMA even comes close to approaching hockey, that's a significant amount of financial support.
The past four UFC events held in Canada have been huge successes, and none of them have been held remotely close to the region of Canada known as the Golden Horse Shoe. The Golden Horse Shoe is about a three-hour drive from one end to the other in Southern Ontario with a population of over eight million people.
That doesn't include the potential traffic that an event in Toronto, Ontario could bring from its close USA neighbors—Detroit and Buffalo.
The Rogers Centre (formerly known as the SkyDome) in Toronto seats just under 70,000 people for professional wrestling or boxing matches. The highest-attended UFC event in North America, UFC 83, was held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and was seen live by 21,390 fans. An event in the Rogers Centre could easily surpass the current benchmark.
In a recent interview with the Toronto Sun, St-Pierre stated, "I'm looking forward to fighting in Toronto one day, maybe at the Rogers Centre. It would be fun to headline the card when it happens."
Over 8.1 million people nearby, a stadium that seats just under 70,000, and one of the top pound-for-pound mixed martial artists in the world—well, St-Pierre says it best.
"It would be a dream come true for me."
It would also be a dream come true for MMA enthusiasts and UFC President Dana White.