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Australia’s UFC 193 reminds Canada of its own MMA journey

It’s the fight week of one of the biggest and most important cards in UFC history.

On November 14th, 70,000 Australian fans will pack the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne to see women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey (12-0-0) defend against former 19-time boxing world champion Holly Holm (9-0-0).

In addition, strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0-0) defends against Montreal’s Valerie Letourneau (8-3-0).

Letourneau is Canada’s primary connection to the big show. She overcame Ukraine favourite Maryna Moroz in her last fight to claim her shot and many Canadian fight fans will be cheering her on.

It’s enough to invoke memories of the show currently holding the title as the UFC’s biggest – Toronto’s UFC 129.

Approximately 55,000 people crammed the Rogers Centre for that one. No wonder Toronto fans in particular can appreciate the journey of UFC 193.

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UFC 129’s five-year anniversary is coming quickly. What made it particularly satisfying was that it was the culmination of years of regulatory MMA groundwork to sway stubborn athletic commissions and reform the then-archaic Section 83 (2) of the Canadian Criminal Code. And still, it took the the coaxing of the certain former Ontario premier’s daughter (her name was Caroline) to jar political action in Ontario and set the wheels of UFC 129 in motion.

According to UFC Managing Director of Operations for Canada, Australia and New Zealand Tom Wright, the UFC “is very committed to Canada.” Three events are expected for Canada in 2016, with one likely to be in a new territory.

Toronto hasn’t hosted an event in over two years since UFC 165. The rest of of Canada, however, has benefitted since 2011, from Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, to Quebec City and Halifax.

It’s great that Mississauga, a close Toronto suburb, recently landed a UFC Gym location,  but one of the symbolic keys is the active UFC Canadian head office, which is in Toronto. So while the city is no longer “the mecca of MMA,” as Dana White once proclaimed, it remains an important UFC market, as is the programming.

Meanwhile, the fifth anniversary of Australia’s first company show – UFC 110 – passed in February. Melbourne will be Australia’s eighth UFC event and it’s unquestionably another important market. The seeds there are being nurtured with an eye to the future.

UFC 193
Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. Josh Hedges, UFC/Zuffa LLC.

Not everyday does a history-making card come to town. Some are disappointed a Fan Expo wasn’t added for a show of this magnitude, but the experiences of UFC 129 have been put forth here, one of which, is the solid card.

So, take a moment and savour UFC 193, Melbourne. You’re about to make history.

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Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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