Promoted to the front page from the FanPosts by Luke Thomas.
Hey all. So I write for a newspaper up here in Vancouver Canada, and over the past year I've managed to convince my editors that MMA is worth supporting.
At first it was tough. I was told it was 'too tacky' and that newspaper readers aren't interested in such pursuits. So I kind of... uh... broke the rules.
I came in one Saturday night and put an article about a UFC event on the paper's website, then snuck out..
Well, it's been a big success since. Last year, 4 of the top 10 most visted articles across the entire chain of newspapers were our MMA pieces. Now I get calls from corporate asking if I'll be covering an event because, and I quote "we're relying on this stuff.."
Much success, high five.
But all was not well in Van land, as the local council (and it's municipalities that have to regulate combat sports up here) was a little scared that MMA events might be a liability nightmare, so they de-regulated the sport here in Sept. 2007.
Today, this is finally looking like it might change.
Behold, the culmination of a year of pushing: I called every Mayor and a ton of local councilors and asked them, "Okay, what's your problem with MMA?", then I called every local fighter, trainer, promoter - and Marc Ratner at the UFC (who is the nicest guy in the world) and John Prisco at the XFC (also a great guy) - to answer those questions.
And my bosses, who run a legacy 'paper of record' in this town, gave me a full page to work with.
A selection follows:
[Richmond councilor] Bill McNulty: "I would want to see a proposal. I personally have seen it on TV and turned it off, but that's me personally. I'd want to see a proposal of what the whole program would entail."
Marc Ratner: "I would fly to Vancouver immediately with some of our other people if any commission needed our help to sort through the process. We'd be there in a second. In fact, I'd be there Thursday but unfortunately I'll be in Toronto that day talking to their commission. ... Today I talked to Philadelphia, Phoenix, they're all saying, 'When are you coming?' The answer is, invite us out and we'll be there -- no question."
John Prisco: "When Tennessee was thinking about approving MMA, they had no idea how to do it. They didn't know insurance, rules, equipment, so we flew up and spent a week with them, working through the details. Once they had a handle on it, they regulated and we not only ran a show weeks later that drew 5000 people, but we also set up a permanent gymnasium there to help the locals learn about the sport, train in it, and make it part of their daily lives. We don't just want to hold an event and make a bit of money, when we come to town, we're looking to stay and build an industry around it. You spend a lot of money marketing to a city population, it doesn't make sense to spend all that and never come back. So whatever a local commission needs as far as advice and help, we'll make the time.
Sun reader EastVanDude: "I shudder to think what sort of impact this sort of activity will have on kids. Fighting in a cage - it's like Thunderdome."
Adam Ryan, trainer/fighter at Vancouver's Dynamic MMA: "A lot of our clientele now is high schoolers, a huge amount of them. I've worked with some people who might, as teenagers have had troubled pasts who are now living really clean lives, stopped getting in trouble. Had parents telling me, 'Thank you so much, my kid isn't getting in trouble any more with all the time and energy he's putting in at the club.' The Vancouver Canucks have sent their prospects to train with us for the last two years. It instils discipline and people are surprised to hear it teaches you restraint."
Bill Mahood: "People get obsessed by the cage, but it really isn't a 'two men enter, one man leaves' thing at all. If you've ever seen MMA in a boxing ring, you're constantly having fighters get tangled in ropes, even spill out of the ring. You have to keep restarting the fight, it really becomes a hurdle to having a good fight. The cage gives you something you can lean against, roll up against, and not worry about it. It keeps the action in the middle. It's a little harder to watch live, unfortunately, but it's there for a good reason that pertains to the sport, not to keep people from escaping."
This morning, Joe Rogan will walk into the Richmond town hall, just across the water from Vancouver, and make the case for MMA. With him will be a host of local MMA kids and trainers. Hopefully the Mayor and council will have a copy of today's paper in front of them.
And next Thursday, Vancouver council receives a report from city staff that asks them to either ban MMA for good, or approve it, with a clear indication from staff that the latter would be the better option (including police recommendations and details of the sort of financial potential involved).
I can't say that we'll have UFC shows in Vancouver in a year, but I can say that the entire industry up here, and at least my corner of the press, is doing everything possible to make it happen.
You can help. Go visit the article linked above and leave a comment, answering anything that we missed and telling folks why you love MMA. The more people hit it, the more of those my bosses will ask for, and the more likely we'll conquer another holdout territory of the sport.
Thanks. Oh, and try not to beat on me for including Kalib Starnes. That cat was the first local MMA guy to talk to me about why I should be covering the sport, and he's been a great source since.