Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
In a swooping announcement, the UFC on Wednesday confirmed dates for three events in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal for 2012.
The promotion also announced that they would run events in the same three cities in 2013.
"This place has been the mecca for mixed martial arts ever since we set foot in this country," UFC president Dana White said during a press conference at Flames Central in downtown Calgary.
The first of the shows will take place at the home arena of the NHL's Flames, the Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome on July 21. White said the main event of the show, which will be numbered UFC 149, will feature UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo defending his championship, though he said Aldo's opponent has yet to be decided.
White couldn't announce any specific matchups for the Calgary event, though middleweight Jason MacDonald who fights out of Edmonton said he hoped to compete on the card and then retire from MMA.
"I'm so pumped to come back up here with a sick card and blow the doors off that arena," White said.
Other events will take place in Toronto on September 22 (UFC 152), and Montreal on November 17 (UFC 154). All three will be pay-per-view offerings.
Asked if UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre would defend the belt on any of the shows, White said he would take St. Pierre whenever he was ready, and that he wouldn't necessarily fight in Canada when he's ready to make his return from knee surgery.
Speaking via satellite, St. Pierre said his rehabilitation is going well and that he's expecting to be cleared to resume full-contact training in July.
"Hopefully I’ll have a chance to fight in front of the Canadian fans in November," St. Pierre said. "Cross my fingers, I hope it will happen."
Meanwhile, the UFC's director of Canadian operations Tom Wright said that going forward, Toronto and Montreal would be regular annual events on the UFC's schedule, while other cities would vary. For 2012-13, it's Calgary, but Edmonton is likely to be in the running soon, while smaller cities like Halifax could be contenders for "Fight Night" type events.
To date, the UFC has produced eight events in Canada dating back to the first one in April 2008. According to White, those events have generated an attendance of about 200,000 fans, with nearly $40 million in box office.
"Canadians have embraced our sport like nowhere else," Wright said.
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