The Ontario Combative Sport Advisory Council, led by Minister Neil Lumsden and Council Chair Ned Kuruc, aims to boost the development of MMA in Ontario, Canada, by refining combat sports at all levels, promoting the growth of amateur MMA, and encouraging the UFC to host more events in the province.
TORONTO — Canada’s MMA fan base has been rabid since the UFC’s boom years in the early 2000s. But the local scene? Not so much. It’s rarely matched that level of demand.
Enter Minister Neil Lumsden and his newly formed Ontario Combative Sport Advisory Council. Their mission? To rectify this mismatch in the country’s most populous province.
With UFC 297 recently hitting Toronto, Lumsden and Council Chair Ned Kuruc got to talking. They answered questions about the council’s goals and their plans for MMA development on all levels.
Kuruc said, “Everyone here has experience in MMA and combat sports, we’ve been doing this for a long time.” He’s from the generation that battled and pioneered through a time when MMA athletes couldn’t compete in Ontario. Change has come, but now, it’s time for more.
The UFC has come to Ontario more often, but that’s not enough. Kuruc says they’re going to create pathways in developing amateur MMA. This will happen very, very shortly, with the help of provincial and national sports organizations. They’re also going to assist smaller regional shows to flourish.
Lumsden, a former CFL standout and four-time Grey Cup winner, emphasized the importance of building a grassroots MMA scene. How? By getting younger people involved and making sure parents feel safe about the sport.
Lumsden and Kuruc clarified that the OCSAC is an advisory board. They’ll work with Ontario’s Athletics Commissioner to promote the growth of amateur MMA.
“Specifically MMA, first and foremost is amateur MMA, and that we’re working on, that’s something on our desk every day,” Kuruc said. They’re almost there with the rule sets and all that. As for professional MMA, they’re refining some of the weigh-in rules and safety aspects.
“We look at it again through a couple of different lenses, and one of them is that we’re saying there’s a development piece of it, amateur, taking care and making sure that the amateur is done properly,” Lumsden said.
Before the UFC 297 ceremonial weigh-ins, Canadian MMA pioneers Mark Hominick and Sam Stout participated in a Q&A. They were UFC standouts in their primes, but couldn’t compete in their home province until MMA was legalized there in 2011.
Will the council consult with veterans like Hominick, Stout, and others? “One hundred percent we are. That’s the kind of input we need to grow and round out exactly what Ontario needs to promote combat sports, for sure,” Kuruc said.
Details on how the council plans to implement these changes are still forthcoming. But the UFC’s return to Toronto for the first time since 2018 has already recharged the local scene.
Lumsden plans to use his relationship with the UFC to boost MMA in Ontario. “The first order of business — and as Dana said, he loves Canada and loves the people in Canada — our goal is to get him to come back more often to Ontario,” Lumsden said.