The UFC Returns to Ottawa

Photo credit: UFC

‘It’s time!!!!!!!’ ……..Well almost. ‘It’s time!’ is the catchphrase, recognizable to any fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), of veteran announcer Bruce Buffer. He says those words before the main event of a fight card and many fans are eagerly anticipating hearing it this Saturday at the Canadian Tire Centre. The last time the UFC was in the nation's capital was June 2016 and the sold-out event was at TD Place Arena. The fact that this event will be in the Canadian Tire Centre is a testament to the passion of the UFC fan base in Ottawa.  While TD Arena is a great venue, they will be able to double attendance in Kanata.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the UFC is the marquee organization. It is quite fascinating watching how it has grown over the years. In its inception in 1993, they did not have the organization and structure that they do now. There were no weight classes, there was no drug testing – it was an unmolded product.

Fast forward to 2019 and you have multiple weight classes for individuals ranging from 115 pounds up though 260, and unlike the early chaotic days you now fight someone in the same weight class. Additionally, fighter safety is very important and the UFC takes all the necessary steps to mitigate injuries. The UFC also has regular drug testing to dissuade potential cheating.

There are some who might look at UFC as barbaric and I couldn’t disagree more. While I enjoy hockey, I’ve never been a fan of fighting in hockey or any other sport…except for the UFC. I want to see hockey players play hockey, not fight. When I watch the UFC,  I know what I am getting. The fighters in the UFC are there to fight and they do it well. This isn’t simply about men or women stepping into the Octagon and trading blows – there is a lot of technique to it. I compare it to chess. ‘If I do this, my opponent can do that.’ ‘If I go for this move, I can leave myself open for that move.’

I truly appreciate the artistry of this sport. Many people I know who have trained in a variety of martial arts often point out the subtleties I may miss.

What makes this organization well-known is the participants. Fighters like Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Conor McGregor have all become household names. Living in Canada, the name that comes to the top of the list is George St. Pierre. St. Pierre is regarded as one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time. The former Welterweight and Middleweight Champion retired earlier this year. He is known for being very classy outside of the Octagon and dominant inside of it.  

In a sport that has a lot of ‘trash talkers’, St. Pierre wasn’t like that. In this regard, he reminds me of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, one of the fighters in this weekend’s main event. Cerrone is a very unique individual and a definite fan favourite. He holds the record for most wins in UFC history, he doesn’t tend to engage in pre-fight trash talk, and he lets his talent do the talking, but above all of that he is also one of the most down to earth people I’ve come across in sports. For example, at a Q&A earlier this year a father was talking to Cerrone and mentioned he was having a hard time getting a cowboy hat for his son (Cerrone is usually seen in a cowboy hat). The next thing you know Cerrone took his hat off and gave it the overwhelmed, appreciative father.

And chances are if you send him a Tweet, he’ll reply (especially if there is an invitation of joining him for a beer).

Cerrone, the number 8 ranked lightweight, will be fighting Al laquinta, ranked number 4, this Saturday in the main. Both are UFC Lightweights (155 pounds) and post impressive records of late. Al laquinta has won 8 of his last 10 fights and Cerrone has won 3 of his last 4. Both of these fighters have title aspirations in mind and this fight will definitely push the winner closer to a title shot. What makes this fight unique is neither have a need to ‘talk trash’ about each other. While the occasional bravado can be entertaining, these two prove it isn’t necessary. Just like GSP did.

The co-main event will showcase a pair of Middleweight contenders: Derek Brunson, ranked #8, vs Canada’s own, Elias Theodorou, ranked #13.

In addition to the event on Saturday, the UFC is hosting open workouts Wednesday at Barrymore’s from 430-730 pm.

I have been following the UFC for many years and for those interested in the organization, they have a great service called UFC Fight Pass which is their streaming service. It has the entire fight library and exciting content on it. It's a great resource for fans new and old.

Each month, Ottawa area fight fans flock to sports bars across the city or pay per view to get their UFC fix. This weekend, they simply need go to the CTC.

Other announced bouts on the card include:

  • In an action-packed featherweight matchup, No. 10 ranked featherweight Cub Swanson (25-10, fighting out of Palm Springs, Calif.) faces tough competition in Shane Burgos (11-1, fighting out of Monroe, N.Y.)
  • The Ultimate Fighter winner Brad Katona (9-0, fighting out of Winnipeg, Canada) aims to remain undefeated when he takes on gritty Merab Dvalishvili (8-3, fighting out of Long Island, N.Y. by way of Tbilisi, Georgia)
  • Dangerous Walt Harris (11-7 1NC, fighting out of Birmingham, Ala.) takes on undefeated Sergey Spivak (9-0, fighting out of Chisinau, Moldova) in a must-see heavyweight bout.
  • Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1, fighting out of Quebec City, Canada) makes his highly anticipated debut against fellow middleweight Andrew Sanchez (11-4, fighting out of Fairfield, N.J.)
  • No. 14 ranked women’s bantamweight Macy Chiasson (5-0, fighting out of New Orleans, LA) takes on Sarah Moras (5-5, fighting out of Kelowna, B.C., Canada) in a battle of The Ultimate Fighter alum
  • Tristar Gym’s Aiemann Zahabi (7-1, fighting out of Montreal, Canada) is back in action against Vince Morales (7-2, fighting out of Ontario, Ore.)
  • Nordine Taleb (14-6, fighting out of Montreal, Canada) looks to halt the UFC debut of Kyle Prepolec (12-5, fighting out of Windsor, Ont., Canada)
  • Kyle Nelson (12-2, fighting out of Huntsville, Ont., Canada) drops down to featherweight against Matt Sayles (6-2, fighting out of San Diego, Calif.)
  • Arjan Bhullar (8-1, fighting out of Vancouver, Canada) battles unbeaten Juan Adams (5-0, fighting out of Houston, Tex.) in a clash of rising heavyweights
  • Mitch Gagnon (12-4, fighting out of Sudbury, Ont., Canada) returns against tough Brian Kelleher (19-10, fighting out of Seldan, N.Y.)