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How UFC 97 was saved

I’ve been wondering what went on in those closed-room meetings between UFC brass and Quebec’s equivalent of an athletic commission. One day the RAJC sounded like they were going to be polite but firm about the last-second rule raping they had laid out. And then the next, everything was honky dory and UFC 97 was going on as planned. While Sportsnet doesn’t have the exact specifics on how everyone went from one extreme to the other, they do have the best breakdown of what happened in the meeting:

The UFC brought four big hitters to Tuesday’s meeting: co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, vice-president Marc Ratner, CEO Kirk Hendrick and general counsel Lawrence Epstein. Included in the other camp were Richard Renault, the new head of the Quebec Boxing Commission and his boss — the head of the Regie des Alcools, des courses et des jeux, the Quebec agency that oversees the commission — plus a commission official and several lawyers.

The meeting lasted one hour and when it was over, the show had the thumbs up. It helped that Fertitta, Ratner and Hendrick were all former members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, people who used to be the gatekeepers of the sport like the Quebec commission. Even in Quebec, they spoke the same language.

Objections were raised and dealt with one by one, according to a source. Elbow strikes? Not allowed, countered the UFC — at least when the elbow is in the 12 to six position. Referees checking on downed opponents? The UFC argued that its refs were the best in the business in protecting a fighter who cannot continue? Knees? The two sides discussed taking and delivering knees. Size of the cage? The commission waived the rules definition. Judo-type throws? Never came up.

The meeting was cordial, the source said. Some of the issues seemed a product of translation, with the rules in French offering a better picture of the Quebec regs than those translated in English. The next day, a short release was issued by Quebec officials that the UFC had its licence to stage the April 18 show. The UFC, showing restraint again, was happy to let Quebec have the final say on the show. But there was no mention of the rules of engagement.

In a short email to The Canadian Press, a UFC source said: “We are using the same rules that we used last April.”

I’m happy that shit got sorted, but I’m still concerned about what happens to the rest of the MMA promotions that are running out of Quebec. There’s an XMMA show next weekend in Montreal and a show with Carlos Newton in March. These organizations don’t have the kind of pull you get when you’re drawing millions of dollars worth of revenue to the province. Will the RAJC be as willing to deal with them as they were with the UFC?