As 2009 winds to a close, mixed martial arts remains outlawed throughout much of British Columbia. This is because many B.C. municipalities continue to delay the approval of sanctioning. For the most part, the hesitation stems from the negative reputation that MMA earned in its comparatively rule-free, early years. The legislative reluctance is also due to the fact that the average city councilor falls well outside MMA's primary demographic of 18-to-35-year-old sports fans.
Unfortunately for MMA fans, B.C.'s prohibiting municipalities include both Victoria, the province's capital city, and the entire Lower Mainland, its most populous region. This means that, while sanctioned fights are consistently being held in B.C.'s smaller centres, such as Nanaimo, the Southern Interior and Prince George, the majority of fans live hours away from the sites of these events.
The result, as so often occurs in cases of prohibition, has been the rise of an underground MMA scene in B.C. This wave of unsanctioned cage-fighting, which has been particularly prevalent in the Lower Mainland, often results in conditions that are much more dangerous for the fighters involved. It also makes it difficult for the average B.C. MMA fan to even locate a live event.
For example, Valleyfight holds monthly MMA shows at Corky's Liquor Bin on a Native Reserve in Chilliwack, B.C., but that undoubtedly-fine establishment simply isn't frequented by the average Vancouverite. As a result, most fans don't even realize that these fights are occurring in their region.
On Vancouver Island, successful MMA events, like the Armageddon Fighting Championship card that was held recently at Colwood's Bear Mountain Arena, are being held just outside the City of Victoria's jurisdiction. While these fights are well-attended, they must overcome the damaging stigma of being officially unwelcome within the capital's city limits.
But don't despair, change may be just over the legislative horizon.
Last April, Vancouver's city council came close to regulating MMA before shelving the motion at the last minute. Shortly thereafter, representatives from the UFC held closed-door meetings with Vancouver's Mayor, Gregor Robertson, which left them feeling encouraged that MMA would be sanctioned in the city in the very near future.
In fact, the UFC has tentatively scheduled an event for Vancouver in June of 2010. Word is, such an event would be held at GM Place-- the region's largest and most modern arena. Clearly, the UFC brass know something we don't. That fact leaves us with no choice but to desperately hope that their president, Dana White, isn't bluffing when he makes statements like this: "We're heading to Vancouver. We'll be there soon."