USA TODAY: Canada fights to keep prime spot on UFC map

Tom Wright, the UFC's director of Canadian operations, says Canada soon might slip behind Brazil in terms of total market value, but he thinks a well-established base of UFC supporters means the country will remain a priority behind the USA.

"Factually, there are still more MMA fans per capita in Canada than anywhere else in the world," Wright said. "We are the second-largest market for the UFC in the world. But we won't be forever because we're about 50 million people short.

"We just don't have the population base to support it."

Canada's population stands at about 35 million, while Brazil has nearly 200 million citizens.

Wright says Canada's status as an "MMA Mecca," a term coined by UFC President Dana White, is in danger, but he insists the promotion is not turning its back on the nation.

"Brazil is the market that's growing so tremendously now, and I think you're going to see markets like China and India grow as our sport begins to get more developed in those areas," Wright said. "But I think the Canadian market is still growing."

On Saturday, St-Pierre will fight for the first time since headlining a historic UFC 129 event in April 2011 in Toronto, where 55,724 fans generated a live gate of $12.1 million. At the time, Brazil hadn't hosted a UFC event since 1998, and Canada was the promotion's top foreign destination.

Since then, several contenders have stepped forward at 170 pounds, and Brazil has emerged as a prime market. But the popularity of St- Pierre and the sport in his native country should resonate Saturday.

"A lot of people are kind of wondering what kind of Georges St- Pierre is going to come back," Wright said. "It's been almost 19 months since Georges last fought, so it's critically important that he's back healthy.

"It's also really important to us as we try to build our business in Canada, where we think we've got some great opportunities to grow the brand and grow the sport."

USA TODAY: Canada fights to keep prime spot on UFC map |