SPORTS

UFC eyes Saskatchewan stop on 2015 calendar, with Atlantic Canada also on radar

10/02/2014 04:19 EDT | Updated 12/02/2014 05:59 EST
HALIFAX - After a year that saw Canada host three UFC shows instead of a planned five, the UFC is still planning its 2015 schedule.

But UFC Canada boss Tom Wright sees two to three annual pay-per-view shows in future, augmented by several smaller Fight Night televised cards.

In 2014, Canada was slated to hold pay-per-view shows in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (UFC 174 on June 14) with Fight Night shows in Quebec City (April 16) and Halifax (Saturday). UFC 178, slated for Toronto in September, was shifted to Las Vegas while the December Montreal show was scrapped.

The UFC is a month away from finalizing its complete 2015 schedule yet but there are some Canadian clues.

The UFC has a March date reserved at the Bell Centre so Montreal should get its card. And Toronto, having lost its 2014 show, is also expected to host a 2015 show with several dates reserved at the Air Canada Centre.

The first foray into Atlantic Canada has been a home run, with between 10,000 and 11,000 fans expected at the soldout Scotiabank Centre. The gate is expected to exceed $1 million.

"This is a good example of why we're excited about our sport across the country," Wright said Thursday. "Because you come to a town like Halifax and there's a real buzz in the city, which is great."

Canada is a good fit for the smaller Fight Night televised cards and Wright hopes to bring one to Saskatchewan, either Regina or Saskatoon, next year.

"I think it will do as well as we've done here," Wright said.

Wright is also interested in bringing future televised shows to St. John's, Moncton, Hamilton, Ottawa, London and Windsor, among others.

He also says he will lobby to bring a pay-per-view to Edmonton once the new area is built. And Quebec City wants the UFC to come back, this time to its new arena.

The 12-fight Halifax card features nine Canadian fighters, as well as athletes from 10 different birth countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Ireland, Nigeria, Russia and the U.S.

"That's pretty cool," said Wright, who also oversees UFC operations in Australia and New Zealand.

Halifax is the seventh Canadian city to host a UFC show, joining Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Saturday will mark the UFC's 17th Canadian show since 2008.

Welterweight Rory (Ares) MacDonald, a native of Kelowna, B.C., who trains in Montreal, takes on American-based Belgian Tarec (Sponge) Saffiedine in Saturday's main event.

Wright has been on the move since joining the UFC. He leaves for Australia at the end of the month, his 10th trip Down Under in two years.

He is also working on a new TV deal for the UFC in Canada, with Rogers Sportsnet's agreement expiring at the end of the year.

"We are in negotiations, still with them as well, but with various partners," he said.

NOTES — Newfoundland and Labrador, and P.E.I. are the only provinces without athletic commissions, according to Wright. The UFC could hold self-regulated shows there but would prefer to work with a local commission.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

MORE:cpSports