The Ultimate Fighting Championship takes to the ring at the MTS Centre this June in a fight card that's been in the works for at least three years.
Details of the June 15 event are to be released this morning by True North Sports & Entertainment, who billed it Monday as "a major sporting event."
Sources told the Free Press the UFC, the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world, has added Winnipeg to its list of cities to host its extremely popular pay-per-view TV fight matches.
Internet mixed martial arts news website mmafrenzy.com, citing a Brazilian website, reported Monday the upcoming UFC 161 has been slated for June 15 at an unnamed Canadian city.
Sources say that's the fight card to be held in Winnipeg.
The event will feature light heavyweight Dan Henderson against former UFC champion Rashad Evans, mmafrenzy.com said. A second light heavyweight matchup will be between Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria. The Saturday-night card also has Tyron Woodley versus Jake Shields.
However, a source said fighters for the June 15 card have not been confirmed.
UFC spokesman Steve Keogh declined to comment on Winnipeg becoming a new UFC city.
"We have nothing to confirm in terms of upcoming Canadian fights," he said in an email.
A source said organizers expect the building to sell out, with many fans coming to Winnipeg from the northern United States, and many will also attend the weigh-ins for the featured fighters.
Manitoba Combative Sport Commission (MCSC) executive director Joel Fingard also declined to comment on today's announcement. The MCSC, formerly the Manitoba Boxing Commission (it officially changed its name last year) is the MMA governing body in the province. For the UFC to hold a card in the Winnipeg, it needs to obtain a licence and event permit from the commission.
"I don't have a permit at this time," Fingard said Monday.
Last October, Tom Wright, UFC director of Canadian operations, told Sportsnet 590 The Fan there will be at least four UFC events in Canada in 2013, with one possibly being a The Ultimate Fighter Canada finale.
Wright hinted the two 2013 UFC events would take place in cities people might not expect.
"There's going to be at least two cities that may surprise a few people when we come out with our schedule," Wright told the Toronto radio station.
Two cities already picked for UFC events this year are Montreal and Toronto. In the past, the UFC has held two events in Vancouver and one in Calgary.
On Thursday, the UFC hosts a media conference call to promote its March 7 event at the Bell Centre in Montreal, featuring reigning UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre against challenger Nick Diaz.
The UFC produces more than 30 live events around the world annually and is the largest pay-per-view event provider in the world.
Three years ago, Manitoba Boxing Commission chairman Dan Vandal told the Free Press that at a match in Montreal, he promoted Winnipeg as a host city to UFC officials.
"They definitely know of Winnipeg," Vandal said at the time. "I spoke to (UFC president) Dana White himself. I told him I was from Winnipeg and he already knew all about Winnipeg and how we have a lot of mixed martial arts fans here.
"I believe that we're in their plans somewhere in the future. Where that is, I'm not sure. They've done their homework; they know there's a good market for mixed martial arts in Winnipeg."
This is a Regina sports blog with a focus on everything going on in the world of sports and whatever else interests me. I'm a freelance Regina sportscaster who is never afraid to let his views on sports be known, and is never afraid to cheer on Regina's teams because they are a major part of the fabric that makes Regina the great city it is.