Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
Anyone who has followed Mixed Martial Arts competitions is no stranger to the sanctioning controversies. One of the more recent campaigns is occurring in my province, Ontario, Canada. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), one of the most recognized and largest promoters of Mixed Martial Arts, has been working their way across Canada to bring the fights here.
The first province to open their doors to Mixed Martial Arts was Montreal in 2008. As a result, the events held in Montreal that year were some of the fastest ticket sellout for the UFC. In 2009, Vancouver opened their doors to a trial period of allowing Mixed Martial Arts venues. Now, UFC has set its sights on Ontario.
In addition to getting Mixed Martial Arts sanctioned, UFC hired Tom Wright as the new head to UFC Canada. Mr. Wright is no stranger to the Canadian sports scene having been the former Commissioner of the Canadian Football League and former President to Adidas Canada. He immediately worked to open new corporate offices in Toronto and help give UFC a more prominent presence in this country.
What is sanctioning?
The strict definition of sanctioning is "authoritative permission or approval that makes a course of action valid." (http://www.thefreedictionary.com) Sanctioning of an event helps to ensure agreed upon guidelines are available and adhered to. It also allows for the event to be insured and thus the participants as well.
The work to become sanctioned is not a new one for sports venues. In fact, the struggle to become sanctioned echoes that of similar sports such as boxing and professional wrestling. Sanctioning also isnít something that is permanent and can be revoked by the region at any time. So it's important that the organization adhere to the guidelines provided. Sanctioning is generally given per organization that applies and per event.
Those against bringing Mixed Martial Arts into the area often cite the fear of introducing the violent nature of the fights to the general public. Exposure desensitizes the community to violence, especially for children. This can lead to youths imitating the actions they see in the ring and potentially injuring themselves.
Those for allowing Mixed Martial Arts see the level of violence as no different from what the child are already exposed to through other venues available to them. Instead, many of those for bringing Mixed Martial Arts into an area/community point to the growing following for this sport and thus the large revenue potential.
Ultimately, as trends tend to go, sanctioning will more than likely be given to the UFC in Ontario. The popularity of Mixed Martial Arts will undoubtedly continue to spread as exposure continues to grow. Good, bad or indifferent, Mixed Martial Arts is here to stay as much as boxing and professional wrestling have become part of our culture. Only time will tell what the impact of this type of exposure will bring to society and Martial Arts in general.