UFC to visit Canada three to five times in 2015

UFC President Dana White. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

TORONTO — Taking a page from its Canadian division, the UFC has announced its full schedule for 2015 with 45 fight cards including three to five in Canada.

There will be 13 pay-per-view shows and 32 televised Fight Night cards.

Toronto, Montreal and Calgary were identified as target cities for Canada but no dates have been attached to those shows yet. The UFC didn’t say which other Canadian cities might be considered although Hamilton, London, Moncton, Ottawa, St. John’s, Saskatoon and Windsor have all been touted as venues for possible future televised shows.

"I’m excited to get back up in Canada," UFC Dana White told a news conference Monday in Las Vegas

It’s the first time that the mixed martial arts promoter has announced its full schedule for the year. But it’s not a first for Canada.

Tom Wright, managing director for UFC operations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has lobbied for releasing the schedule months in advance to make life easier for fans and business partners.

The news is not cast in stone, however. Fighters get injured and some fight cards demand a higher profile than others as shown by the 2014 Canadian schedule.

In January, the UFC announced a five-city 2014 schedule for Canada with pay-per-views shows in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and Fight Night cards in Halifax and Quebec City.

That turned out to be just three events when UFC 178 was shifted to Las Vegas from Toronto and the Montreal card was cancelled.

In making the scheduling announcement in Las Vegas, with 14 elite fighters on stage, the UFC did not attach cities or fighters to the dates other than those already announced for the first two months of the year.

Wright said in an interview that Toronto, Montreal and Calgary could all be pay-per-view shows. Toronto and Montreal have never hosted anything else. UFC 149 in Calgary in July 2012 was a somewhat cursed show with a string of injuries, prompting White to promise a top-quality make-up show at some point in the future.

The Montreal date could be in March, with the UFC having a date reserved for that month at the Bell Centre. The UFC schedule calls for UFC 185 on March 14.

Canada can expect to host a 2015 welterweight title bout featuring Rory MacDonald, a native of Kelowna, B.C., who now fights out of Montreal. White has already confirmed that MacDonald will meet the winner of the UFC 181 main event Dec. 6 between 170-pound champion Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks and (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler.

Asked about Calgary as a possible site for the MacDonald title bout, White said: "Possibly. Could happen. Makes sense."

Montreal might make even more sense for MacDonald, who has said he would like to fight in Vancouver, given his druthers.

The timing and host city could come down to how the 170-pound champion emerges from the Dec. 6 fight.

Wright said the remaining two Canadian cities on the calendar would likely be new host cities.

The UFC has held 17 shows in Canada, with stops in Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The UFC said roughly half the 45 events will take place in the U.S., with six in Las Vegas. There will be seven events in Brazil (including at least one pay-per-view) and two in Mexico.

There will be five to six events in Europe and the Middle East with Ireland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom cited as target markets. Potential new markets are Poland, the Netherlands and Russia with a possible return to Abu Dhabi.

There will be one or two events in Australia and a return to Asia for two or three events with China, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea identified as target markets.

Of the non-pay-per view cards, 22 will be on TV and the other 10 on the UFC’s Fight Pass web service.

The televised shows will be on Fox, Fox 1 or Fox Sports 2 in the U.S. The UFC has yet to reveal details of its new TV deal in Canada — Sportsnet is the current rights-holder — but is expected to make an announcement in a week to 10 days.

Featherweight contender Conor McGregor had plenty to say on stage Monday but former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre got more than a few mentions. The 33-year-old Montreal star is currently on hiatus from the sport and has yet to announce a return, although he is back training after a knee injury suffered during his absence.

"As soon as he’s ready to fight, he’ll let us know," said White, who went to Montreal recently with UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta to meet St-Pierre. "But I’m very confident that he’s coming back."

St-Pierre told a different story. Asked about his fighting future, he said "I’m not sure" in a text to The Canadian Press.

The UFC boss had promised a separate major announcement Monday but said he had not been able to get it down in time.

Nick Diaz, meanwhile, took a few potshots at St-Pierre after hearing that the Canadian thought he might be in trouble fighting at 185 pounds. The former Strikeforce champion, beaten by GSP at 170 pounds at UFC 158, takes on former middleweight champion Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in January.

"Georges didn’t take the (Silva) fight … Now I take the fight and he’s running his mouth," said Diaz.

UFC 2015 Schedule

Jan. 3 – UFC 182, Las Vegas, "Jones vs. Cormier"

Jan. 18 – UFC Fight Night, Boston, "McGregor vs. Siver"

Jan. 24 – UFC Fight Night, Stockholm, "Gustafsson vs. Johnson"

Jan. 31 – UFC 183, Las Vegas,"Silva vs. Diaz"

Feb. 14 – UFC Fight Night, Broomfield, Colo., "Brown vs. Saffiedine"

Feb. 22 – UFC Fight Night

Feb. 28 – UFC 184, Los Angeles, "Weidman vs. Belfort"

March 7 – UFC Fight Night

March 14 – UFC 185

March 21 – UFC Fight Night

April 4 – UFC Fight Night

April 11- UFC Fight Night

April 18 – UFC Fight Night

April 25 – UFC 186

May 15 – UFC Fight Night

May 16 – UFC Fight Night

May 23 – UFC 187

May 30 – UFC Fight Night

June 6 – UFC Fight Night

June 13 – UFC 188

June 20 – UFC Fight Night

June 27 – UFC Fight Night

July 11 – UFC 189

July 12 – UFC Fight Night

July 15 – UFC Fight Night

July 18 – UFC Fight Night

July TBA – UFC Fight Night

July 25 – UFC Fight Night

Aug. 1 – UFC 190

Aug. 8 – UFC Fight Night

Aug. 23 – UFC Fight Night

Aug. 29 – UFC Fight Night

Sept. 5 – UFC 191

Sept. 19 – UFC Fight Night

Sept. 26 – UFC Fight Night

Oct. TBA – UFC Fight Night

Oct. 3 – UFC 192

Nov. 7 – UFC Fight Night

Nov. 14 – UFC 193

Nov. 21 – UFC Fight Night

Nov. 28 – UFC Fight Night

Dec. TBA – UFC Fight Night

Dec. 5 – UFC 194

Dec. 12 – UFC Fight Night

Dec. 19 UFC Fight Night

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