The Ultimate Fighting Championship is just five days away from its debut in Saskatchewan.
And while fans familiarize themselves with the fighters, they may be surprised to see the referees in the middle in the octagon aren’t the same ones they see on TV. That’s because the judges and officials are selected by the host athletics commission.
“Our approach right now is to hire expertise that’s already in the industry but over the long term we will work on developing a pool of referees and judges right here in the province,” said Scott Brown, chair of the Saskatchewan Athletics Commission. He added officials are being brought in from Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
“In preparation for (UFC Fight Night 74) we’ve hired people with prior (mixed martial arts) or UFC experience.”
But the UFC is picking up the tab on bringing those officials to Saskatchewan, and the names of referees and judges are sealed in an envelope to prevent any corruption.
So fans won’t be seeing the Herb Dean’s and John McCarthy’s at SaskTel Centre, but Brown said one day he would like to see local officials build credible reputations in the boxing ring or the octagon so the commission can hold multiple events each year. And that training starts this week leading up to Sunday’s event.
“We have orientation sessions to make sure both the people coming in and the folks we want to groom in-province get access to the best information possible,” Brown said. “There’s a whole host of needs here for when promoters come to town, and those are the individuals we want to have available and we want to have enough so we can handle events when some officials aren’t available.”
With the provincial commission just a few months old, Brown said over the past two years promoters have been knocking on Saskatchewan’s door, looking to see when an athletics commission was coming.
“In the broader scope people involved in the sport have come interested but we couldn’t legally hold them.”
UFC Fight Night 74 goes live on Fox Sports 1 and TSN Sunday at 7 p.m.
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