Pancrase veteran and British Columbia MMA promoter Paul "The Mauler" Lazenby attended a meeting of the Vancouver Athletic Commission yesterday in order to obtain a promoter's license for a small MMA show he is organizing. While there, Lazenby uncovered some troubling news about the UFC's planned event at GM Place on June 12th (UFC 115) which he discusses on his blog:
In spite of Vancouver City Council's approval of a two-year trial period for MMA, I found out that there are still no regulations in place to promote the sport professionally within the city. The problem lies in the fact that the city is still expressing grave concerns about legal and financial liability, while movement toward a resolution of those concerns appears to have been extremely sluggish.
At one point, newly-elected VAC chair Mirko Mladenovic (a supporter of properly-sanctioned MMA) asked Mr. Hammel when the legal issues might be resolved, to which Mr. Hammel replied, "About two months" in a manner that indicated to me that it may be even longer. Paradoxically, Mr. Hammel also said that an MMA event could technically be held at Vancouver's PNE Fairgrounds, which have previously hosted major events by bodogFIGHT and Elite Fighting Championships, but added that such an event would be subject to the approval of the PNE board.
That's an apparent dead-end, since that board has already issued flat refusals to Edmontion's Maximum Fighting Championships and eastern Canada's Elite-1, stating that they have no desire to host any MMA event on their premises. Hearing all that I damn near stopped breathing, since it would mean that unless something changes, and quickly, then our UFC event is already dead in the water.
As MMA Mania pointed out when they broke this story just a short while ago, the UFC previously ran into a similar issue in Montreal last April when they were planning UFC 97, although that controversy stemmed from the disastrous "Strikebox" event and subsequent fan "involvement" that occurred there. Fortunately, the UFC was able to salvage the Montreal event by making a few strange compromises regarding rule changes and by gently reminding the athletic commission of the huge financial upside surrounding a live UFC event.
Right now, the UFC hasn't even officially announced the Vancouver event, which is expected to be headlined by the third meeting of TUF 11 coaches Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, and possibly by Randy Couture vs. Rich Franklin as well, but as news of this issue spreads, it's likely that we'll learn more about the planning behind UFC 115 and how the UFC plans on dealing with this serious hang-up.