How often has a Canadian athlete been involved in an event that is being billed as the best of all time in his or her sport? Outside of hockey?
Ben Johnson, maybe, but that's about it. Until tomorrow that is. UFC 94 goes in Las Vegas. It's headlined by Montreal's Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn. Both men are champions, St. Pierre the welterweight holder and Penn the lightweight champion. UFC president Dana White has suggested that this is a fight in line with any of the great boxing matches in history. Yet, coverage in Canadian mainstream media has been, well, lacking.
What's that about?
The anti-MMA crowd has had its opinion well documented by now. They say the sport is too brutal to deserve equal treatment with more enlightened activities like hockey, which allows bare fisted brawling, or boxing, which has been around forever so it must be OK.
Fans of the sport continue to gravitate away from the mainstream to seek out information that they desire. The average fan misses out. Here we have a Canadian that is at the very top of one of the world's most popular sports and yet, outside of the hardcore, he's virtually unknown.
As I've stated in this space before, I'm not much of a MMA fan. I find it a bit dull (too much ground work that I just don't appreciate). However, I can appreciate the athleticism involved and I will argue that St. Pierre deserves our respect. He's a great athlete, period.
In spite of the critics claims, MMA isn't going anywhere. The fan base is too involved, too passionate. So, it's time we got over it and start to treat it the same way as every other sport. And that goes double for the mainstream sports media in this country. If St. Pierre's fight isn't the lead story on every broadcast and above the fold in every newspaper in the country Sunday...someone is missing the point.
Related: Dana White talks to the FAN 590.