There is mounting evidence to suggest that the city of Vancouver – and indeed the entire province of British Columbia – views MMA and its fans as a roving band of savages who are going to storm the town with torches and two-by-fours, burning every building and raping every damsel before climbing on their snarling horses and moving on to pillage the next village. At least that’s the impression we get from a number of local news reports leading up to June’s UFC 131. First there were reports from the Vancouver Courier that the police chief in The Couv was asking the UFC to foot the bill for extra cops outside the Rogers Arena during the event. The UFC rightly said no to that request last week. Now older reports are beginning to surface that the local government squashed a planned MMA expo last year and even one (from our own M-Russ in his previous incarnation at The Fight Network) alleging that area nightclubs tried to ban Affliction clothing as far back as 2007.
So, what gives? Why so petrified, Vancouver? Did somebody forget to tell them Brock Lesnar’s probably not even going to show up now? We hate to break the news this way, but the UFC has actually been doing shows all over the world for kind of a lot of years now and all of them – as far as we know – are still standing and operational as, you know, cities. From where we’re sitting it seems way more dangerous to say, have your team win the NBA championship than host a UFC event. Oh, wait. Sorry. Forgot. Anyway, more on this story, the UFC’s reaction and the possible roots of Vancouver’s MMA phobia after the jump.
Much of the current hysteria appears to stem from a bump in calls to police in the wake of UFC 115 last summer, particularly one sort of nasty act of violence. In that incident, a gay couple was beaten by two men while returning to their home in the hours after UFC 115. For whatever reason – thought they’ve been a little coy about it – police believe the men responsible may have been all charged up after watching Rich Franklin KO Chuck Liddell that night. Here it is from the most recent Courier report:
“Police have not linked the beating to the UFC event, although (one of the victims) said in an interview a few days after the incident that he believed his attackers attended the fights at Rogers Arena.”
So that seems vague. According to the Courier, other incidents of concern following UFC 115 included “public drinking, rowdy drunks and public urination before and after the UFC event.” You know, sort of like what happens any time there is any sort of significant gathering of fans for a sporting event, concert or large scale happening. Fact is, you’re always going to have a few idiots sprinkled in with the rest of the crowd.
Inexplicably, BC seems to have decided that MMA fans are also prone to “gang activity,” though if there are any MMA-centric gangs out there, we’ve never heard of them. It’s not like the Hells Angels, Crips or Latin Kings are known to mobilize for UFC events. Apparently however, the powers that be believe these gangs exist, and that they fancy $60 fashion T-shirts as their colors. Dude, those aren’t gangs. They’re just douchebags.
Anyhow, “gang concerns” were the reasons given last year when authorities reportedly told a promoter his planned MMA expo could not include “two people competing in any manner.” As result of finding out that no MMA, jiu-jitsu or kickboxing could be expo’d at his expo, the promoter canceled the event.
That pretty much brings us up to date, when Vancouver asked the UFC to pay for extra cops around Rogers Arena next month. The company said no, with Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright explaining in an email to MMA Fighting: “We remain supportive of law enforcement in every city we bring shows to, (but) we weren’t prepared to be ‘treated differently’ than other events/concerts/shows.”
As it stands, it doesn’t seem like this sticking point will threaten the viability of UFC 131. On the other hand, it does kind of feel like British Columbia needs to chill out.
Props: Cage potato