The UFC typically ventures to Canada two or three times per year, often debuting in at least one new market along the way.
It’s a completely different story when it comes to the UFC’s biggest rival promotion, however Bellator MMA president Scott Coker said he hopes to bring an event to Canada in 2019.
“With Rory MacDonald on our roster, that’s been a goal of ours,” Coker told gathered media Thursday in Inglewood, Calif., ahead of Saturday’s Bellator 214 event.
Bellator is an organization with a passionate and expanding fan base north of the border, yet in the past the roster has been light on Canadian talent. MacDonald, Bellator’s welterweight titleholder, is one of two reigning Bellator champions hailing from Canada. Women’s featherweight champ Julia Budd is the other.
Theoretically, having the Canadian champions co-headline an event could be enough to fill a decent-sized venue, and it’s something Coker said his team is working on.
“To be honest, it’s just been really challenging getting the right date to match up with our TV date and that’s been the only hang-up,” Coker explained.
Bellator has hosted seven events in Canada since the promotion launched in 2009, but none since Scott Coker came aboard as president in June of 2014. All seven Canadian Bellator events to date have taken place in Ontario – five of them at Casino Rama in Orillia with the other two at the Caesars Windsor in Windsor.
Toronto is a big fight city, one in which the UFC has held six events in since 2011, and Coker suggested it as a potential destination. Booking an event anywhere in Toronto, let alone at Scotiabank Arena, comes with many obstacles though.
“In Toronto, they have hockey and basketball and concerts; and, it’s just a very busy building so it’s been tough,” Coker said.
When asked about possibly heading to the West Coast and finding a venue in British Columbia, the home province of both MacDonald and Budd, Coker gave a similar response.
“I think that the people that book our building are looking everywhere, and the months that we need those fights are tough for them — and the months that are available are tough for us — so we haven’t matched it up, but we will,” he added. “We will be in Canada. I think before 2019 is over, we’ll be there for sure at least one time.”