Vancouver's City Council voted 6-3 in favor of sanctioning mixed martial arts on a two-year pilot basis. The next big step for Mixed Martial Arts in Canada is getting Ontario on board. The issue at hand is the fact that the sport is technically illegal in Canada.
Prizefights (with the exception of boxing) are banned under the Criminal Code of Canada. This is the reason that MMA is banned in Ontario.
Conservative MP James Moore, who urged council to embrace MMA "with both hands," said the federal government has no problem with MMA. The Tories introduced Bill C-31 in May (which is still in first reading) to change the code’s dated language around the sport.
As well, a letter to the city from B.C.’s Attorney General Mike de Jong gave tacit support for the sport.
In it, de Jong said he would not "criticize" the approach Montreal has taken in hosting its two (and soon to be three) UFC fights.
As part of the motion, Mayor Gregor Robertson will write to the federal and provincial governments to clarify the legality of MMA.
I have no doubts that Ontario will eventually come on board with legalizing MMA. Ontario, along with British Columbia and Alberta, was considered one of the hardest hit provinces in this recent recession. While these provinces are slated to bounce back, there is no guarantee that the recovery will be strong and sustainable. A double-dip back into recession is entirely possible. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, North America's premier MMA organization, has already held two events in Montreal, and is now set to hold one in Vancouver. The financial benefits of holding a UFC event would be huge for any city that does so. It is clear that despite the illegal status of the sport, money talks with local politicians, who are willing to act ahead of the sluggish workings of Parliament. In short, Ontario cannot afford to sit by while other provinces enjoy the financial benefits of mixed martial arts.