Premier Dalton McGuinty has dealt with “ultimate fighting” by bobbing and weaving — seldom the path to principled public policy.
McGuinty opened the door to mixed martial arts last December, calling for broad public input while cautioning that it’s not something “I’d want to drive underground.” That’s called having it both ways.
Fans cheered, but only for a few weeks. McGuinty soon backtracked, declaring that legalizing this unusually brutal form of prize fighting was “just not a priority for our families and it’s not a priority for me.” It would be a “distraction” for the government to even consider it, he added.
Now, just a few months later, the McGuinty government has given its blessings to the mixed martial arts program. In an unusual Saturday announcement, the province said its first sanctioned event will likely occur next year.
The motive appears to be the sport’s growing popularity, and McGuinty’s fear that Tory leader Tim Hudak might make hay of fans’ frustrations. Without access to bouts in this province, thousands of Ontario fans, especially young men, watch them on pay-per-view; many have even travelled to Montreal to see their favourite stars.
But it is a particularly harsh sport, one with few rules. Combatants are free to punch, kick, wrestle and choke each other into submission. Yes, there is money to be made through such spectacle. But, in terms of our shared values, Ontario seems all the poorer for allowing it. Continued...