TORONTO | Georges St-Pierre may have fought his last fight more than six years ago, but we are only just beginning to realize the impact he has had on the world of mixed martial arts in Canada.
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Mike Malott, the Canadian headliner of UFC 297, is from the Toronto suburb of Burlington and has great admiration for GSP.
“I had a poster of Georges in my room in high school and we're starting to see the influence he had and I think we're on to a good streak.”
He knows what he's talking about since he appeared on the UFC 289 card in Vancouver last June. The six Canadians present won this event.
For its return to Toronto after a six-year absence, the UFC presents a card on which we find nine fights with Canadians out of a total of twelve duels.
It captures the imagination and Malott believes it is just the beginning of a new wave that could last for a few years.
“The results of the Vancouver Gala speak for themselves. We put on quite a show. It seems like there is momentum and energy and it seems like we are starting to believe in ourselves again, a bit like when Georges was at the helm.”
Marc-André Barriault sides with Malott and believes Canada can position itself positively in the mixed martial arts scene.
“In Vancouver we proved that we can be one of the best countries for the UFC. We have a lot of talent among the young people coming to us.”
When asked if he sees the UFC returning to the Bell Center in the more or less near future, Charles Jourdain expressed reservations.
“Unfortunately, Canada and Montreal in particular are addicted to hockey and we are not that popular. Georges has set the bar very high and it would be very difficult for Marc-André, Yohann [Lainesse] and I to fill the Bell Centre, which is a very large arena, but I want us to offer Montrealers a very Canadian menu.
In April 2008, the first UFC gala in Canada was held at the Bell Center and tickets sold out in less than a minute. Since then, five more galas have taken place at the Canadiens' home. The last one, UFC 158, dates back to March 2013. GSP was obviously the headliner.
UFC boss Dana White told TVA Sports' Anthony Martineau on Friday that he plans to return to Canada quickly and that Montreal and Quebec are considered possible destinations in the coming months.