In Report on Business magazine's April issue, reporter Grant Robertson examined how the UFC evolved from a money-losing sideshow into a billion-dollar sports juggernaut. One reason, of course, is megastar Georges St-Pierre-the UFC's biggest brand who just happens to be Canadian. This weekend, he takes on American Jake Shields at the Rogers Centre in a highly-anticipated fight that's drawn 55,000 fans to Toronto. That's the biggest crowd ever for a UFC event.
As the story explained: Toronto is crucial to UFC's long-term strategy. "The April 30 event is more than just a payday for White and his partners in UFC parent company Zuffa LLC, Las Vegas casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. The event is a proving ground for the UFC-the young league's first stadium event. Until now, it has only ever staged fights in arenas built for boxing or hockey. If this works, it will pave the way for even bigger fights at venues like Cowboys Stadium, the 80,000-seat Dallas monstrosity that recently hosted the Super Bowl."
Tom Wright, a former CFL commissioner, was key to ensuring that mixed martial arts debuted in Toronto. He advised UFC president and promotional mastermind Dana White that to sway opposition in Ontario he would have to "open up an office. You need to demonstrate that you're not these carpetbagging Americans flying into a city and stealing all the money and getting out of Dodge."
Wright was here on Friday to talk about the weekend fight and about what's next for the UFC.