TORONTO – The UFC is shifting broadcast partners in Canada at the start of 2024, and company executive Dave Shaw expects more in-depth coverage of the sport in “The Great White North.”
The octagon is set to return to Toronto for the first time since December 2018 with UFC 297, which takes place Jan. 20 at Scotiabank Arena and airs on pay-per-view. The timing of the event lines up perfectly with UFC’s renewed partnership with Sportsnet, which held its English-language broadcast rights from Sept. 2011-Dec. 2014 before a move to Bell-owned rival network TSN.
UFC’s contract with TSN expired on Dec. 31, and it recently announced a return to Sportsnet is coming in 2024 under the terms of a new multi-year agreement, with TVA serving as the French-language broadcast partner. UFC Senior VP of International Operations said negotiations have been ongoing for nearly 18 months, and ultimately the return to the Rogers-owned Sportsnet was the best path forward.
“We always knew the termination or the expiration of our former contract, or current contract (with TSN) would be Dec. 31,” Shaw told MMA Junkie at Tuesday’s UFC 297 on-sale press conference. “We wanted to line up the possibility of either a renewal or a new broadcast relationship across the country with a pay-per-view in Toronto, and that’s why the timing has worked out so well. I think the commitment to our athletes across the country, whether it’s in Vancouver or Victoria, to Manitoba, though Atlantic Canada and the Maritimes, we’ve got fans all across the country and those fans gravitate to their local athletes.
“They gravitate to Canadian stars that have histories in their communities and made a commitment to the sport in those provinces, and to us, what Sportsnet can bring, is like a renewed cycle of growth through our brand, and through our athletes. And that’s what we’re thrilled about.”
UFC 297 will mark the promotion’s seventh event in Toronto, and 33rd overall in Canada since April 2008. The country would consistently host two or three events per year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s only been one fight card since September 2019.
Shaw is hopeful the UFC’s schedule into 2024 and beyond will allow for repeat yearly stops in Canada, and with the new broadcast agreement in place, he sees a promising future.
“We’re committed to coming back to Canada,” Shaw said. “Two, three, four events. We’re not sure how many we can hold next year. Our schedule is still in the works. But what I can tell you is Canada ranked third in terms of total number of events by country. U.S. first, Brazil second and Canada third. This will be our 33rd event in the country. Our commitment to Canada is steadfast and will not be wavering at all.”
The latest UFC 297 lineup includes:
Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis – for middleweight title
Raquel Pennington vs. Mayra Bueno Silva – for vacant women’s bantamweight title
Neil Magny vs. Mike Malott
Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Arnold Allen vs. Movsar Evloev
Dominick Reyes vs. Carlos Ulberg
Garrett Armfield vs. Brad Katona
Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Chris Curtis
Charles Jourdain vs. Sean Woodson
Serhiy Sidey vs. Ramon Taveras
Gillian Robertson vs. Polyana Viana
Jimmy Flick vs. Malcolm Gordon
Yohan Lainesse vs. Sam Patterson
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 297.