By Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - News the UFC will be heading to Halifax in the not-so-distant future came as a surprise to most on Tuesday, except T.J. Grant.
© THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - David Becker
Referee Herb Dean moves in to break up Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva during the second round during of their UFC 162 mixed martial arts middleweight championship bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on July 6.
The Cole Harbour native and lightweight star said he’s had conversations on the topic with UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright long before he made the announcement during a press conference in Toronto.
“In speaking with him in the past, he let me know that UFC was interested in coming here because they thought it was the hotbed region for UFC fans and that it could attract people from all over the Maritimes as well as Newfoundland, Quebec and Eastern United States,” said Grant.
Wright expressed the UFC’s interest in Halifax at the news conference to promote UFC 165, saying in response to a question that a show would be held in the province’s capital “if not in 2014, 2015, the next couple of years for sure.”
There’s no doubt in Grant’s mind it would be a roaring success.
“Absolutely it would be,” said Grant, who has a UFC lightweight title bout set for Aug. 31 against Benson (Smooth) Henderson at UFC 164 in Milwaukee. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I have fans all over the Maritimes, there’s a huge, growing following here, it would be a sellout in no time at all.”
Plans appear firmly in motion.
“I’ve had conversations with the people that run the Metro (Centre) there,” said Wright. “I’ve had discussions with all sorts of different people politically down in Halifax.
“I think Atlantic Canada is a great spot for our sport…. It’s the centre of commercial business in all of Atlantic Canada and they are definitely, definitely on our radar.”
The prospect of fighting in front of his hometown is about as tantalizing for the 29-year-old Grant as you might expect.
“It’s not something I’ve been able to do a lot during my career,” he said. “I’d love the opportunity.”
– with files from The Canadian Press