UFC gets chance to redeem itself in Calgary

Dana White (CP Photo)

The UFC unveiled its event schedule for 2015 Monday, one which will continue to showcase the organization’s desire to expand it’s product globally, and proving yet again it has no interest in slowing down their momentum.

A total of 45 events are expected: 13 on pay-per-view, four on FOX, 18 on FOX Sports 1 and 10 on UFC Fight Pass.

Host countries include Canada, Sweden, Mexico, England, Germany, Australia and Japan. There are also plans to enter new markets like Poland, Holland, Scotland, Russia and the Philippines.

While it’s estimated that nearly half of the events will take place in the United States, fans in the Great White North breathed a sigh of relief as it was announced three major markets in Canada will hold (likely PPV) events: Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

For over two years, fans in Calgary have been clamouring for the UFC to return to their city after the majority deemed the one and only event held there, UFC 149, a dismal failure after the original card was decimated by injuries. While I personally enjoyed the majority of bouts on the card, local media and fans alike were left with a sour taste in their mouths.

Now, with the UFC announcing they will make a return, fans are expecting Dana White to remain true to his word. He has always said they will not only return to the city, but will come back with a strong card to make up for UFC 149.

But the reality is it’s easier said than done. Injuries are a reality, so the hope is that the stars will align for Cow Town and an exceptional card can remain in tact, no matter who is scheduled to fight and when the announcements begin to be made.

Based on past comments made by the UFC, it looks like a return to The Bell Centre in Montreal could take place on March 14 with UFC 185, a PPV event that might just see Rory MacDonald contend for the welterweight title against the winner of UFC 181’s main event between champion Johnny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. One look at The Bell Centre’s calendar of events sees the venue free, with the Montreal Canadiens playing there on March 12 and not returning again until the 19th.

While no date has been set for Calgary or Toronto, no hints have been given as to a timeframe either. Based on my conversations with the organization, I was told not to expect a September show in Toronto, but maybe much earlier, or perhaps even as late as December. Plans remain fluid and it may be sometime before concrete logistics give way to a proper announcement.

The organization also hinted a total of five events could be held in Canada, two of which may likely be "Fight Nights." Based on the success of the UFC’s debut in Halifax, there is an assumption the organization could return there in late 2015.

Talk of Edmonton continues to surface, as does a return to Winnipeg. There is also talk of a Fight Night in Ottawa, Regina and Saskatoon. No word yet as to when and where, so let the bidding war(s) begin.

An interesting note was that the promotion will continue to take The Ultimate Fighter to international destinations. From a Canuck’s perspective, there was no mention of another season of TUF Canada. That’s disappointing to say the least but, as always, plans remain fluid and no one should be surprised if the organization pulls a TUF Canada rabbit out of the proverbial hat.

Whether the organization believes it or not, there is work that must be done in Canada to bring back the casual fan. Devout UFC fans remain loyal in the country, but in my conversations over the past several months, many mainstream fans have lost interest namely because of what they deem as over saturation and the lack of stars.

My rebuttal has remained steadfast: in time, new stars will capture their attention. And based on the dais that was on display during Monday’s press conference, the remainder of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 should rekindle the love many once had for big names and big fights.

Despite my conversation with Georges St-Pierre, where he neither confirmed or denied making a potential return in 2015, one has to assume if GSP does in fact come back, so will the legions of fans who will likely give the UFC a much-desired spike in PPV buy rates.

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