UFC president Dana White once said Canada was the mecca of mixed martial arts.
That's no longer the case.
Canadian MMA took a major hit when former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre announced a sudden hiatus in late 2013. St-Pierre has been on the sidelines since, and despite recent return rumors, he will likely never step inside the Octagon again. The amount and star-power of Canadian UFC events decreased ever since St-Pierre's departure, with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and other non-Canadians headlining most recent cards.
The regional circuit, although it has gotten better in the past year or so, has been suffering, as well. Not necessarily because of St-Pierre's departure -- there isn't a clear reason why local MMA in Canada has been suffering, but there is a major decrease in events across the country. Promising Canadian organization Maximum Fighting Championship is no more, and WSOF Canada doesn't appear to be putting on any more events, either.
There is lots of talent in Canada, no doubt. And a large portion of that talent deserves to be in the UFC. The difficult part is showcasing that talent. With a lack of local events, less and less Canadian fighters are being signed to the UFC. The promising Canadian fighters worthy of UFC shots aren't being discovered. And that leads to less and less UFC events in Canada. It's a full circle.
But with a stacked UFC Fight Night coming up in Ottawa, Ontario next month, one would imagine several prospects have been signed to the organization to debut on the UFC's first trip to the nation's capital.
In fact, zero Canadians have been signed to the UFC to debut at UFC Fight Night 89 in Ottawa next month. That's an issue, if the organization is wanting to revive Canadian MMA.
In a recent interview with BloodyElbow.com's The MMA Circus, Canadian light heavyweight Nick Campbell, who fights at Saturday Night Fights: Round 11 in Regina, Saskatchewan on Saturday night, discussed the current MMA scene in Canada, and the UFC's dedication to Canadian MMA.
"I didn't realize there was no new talent signed to the UFC from Canada [for UFC Fight Night in Ottawa]," Campbell said. "I think the most recent one was Misha Cirkunov, maybe? That's crazy. You'd think for UFC Ottawa, you would have some local talent.
"At the same sense too, you look at the cards being put on in Canada over the past two, three years. It seems like once the market fell apart, there seems to be less MMA shows. And it's great that organizations like Saturday Night Fights and Prestige FC are putting on stuff in Saskatchewan and trying to grow the talent in Saskatchewan. But you look at Edmonton for example, World Series is no longer in Edmonton and MFC hasn't done a show forever. I'm pretty sure MFC is for sale, I've seen that on Twitter. Unified has been going strong. King of the Cage, they haven't really done a whole bunch, compared to what they used to do either. Five Star, they were another league out of B.C., they came into Northern Alberta a little bit. You look at the cards, a lot of guys are going to amateur cards and just having a couple pro-fights. In some sense, maybe that's the issue too. There's not enough promotions putting on enough cards to farm these fighters out there, build their records, put them up against the right guys, make the right moves to get to the show.
"But still, we just don't have the offers anymore. Two, three years ago I was wishing I was in the higher ranks so I could fight on these cards. Those cards aren't even here anymore. Prestige FC, they're on the Fight Network, that looks like a good card to be apart of in the future. You can get a lot of publicity from that organization. And that's like MFC. When you fought at MFC, there's a camera in your face when you're walking out, and then you're in the ring. You know you're on TV, people are seeing you. All it takes is the right person to see you and the next day you're signed, right? It's a little disappointing those shows aren't here anymore. And even The Score Fight Series out East. They were putting out some good fighters too. Without those shows, it's hard to produce the fighters and get the fighters the publicity they need to make it to the UFC."
Like most people, Campbell struggles to come up with a realistic reason on why Canadian MMA -- inside and outside the UFC -- is at a stalemate right now. Is it St-Pierre not selling out stadium shows anymore? Are there simply a lack of stars? Is the UFC not doing enough promotion for the Canadian UFC cards? Is it too risky to promote a local event in Canada? Perhaps a mix of everything?
"The other thing I heard there too though, and I don't know if it's a rumor or what have you, I've kind of been reading it up on the Internet, but the UFC is apparently for sale. That might be another reason why they aren't signing any new fighters. They're not anyone to a long term contract. A guy like Rory MacDonald, he only has one more fight on his contract. So what's he going to do after this contract? He's probably going to go as a prize-fighter, he's going to go to whoever's going to pay the most money. You put your head on the line every time you step into the ring, you're going to want to get paid top dollar for that. The fact that they haven't even signed Rory, the No. 2 welterweight in the world, and he doesn't have his contract renewed? I don't really know how contracts work in the UFC, but you'd think you'd want to lock that guy up for a long-term deal."
Whatever the case may be, Campbell does know one thing for sure.
"I definitely think there is a lack of Canadians in the UFC. I'm not really sure how you get in there."