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Spotlight: Tom Wright

Of the 116 UFC cards, the number in Canada can still be counted on one hand, yet almost 20 percent of the property’s total business comes from north of the border. Tom Wright, recently appointed director of operations for UFC Canada, is a former CFL commissioner and one-time president of Adidas Canada and Spalding Canada. He hopes to expand the country’s roster to three fights annually. Wright spoke recently with editorial assistant Theresa Manahan.

Age: 57
New title: Director of operations, UFC Canada
Previous title: Managing director, Level5 Strategic Brand Advisors
First job: Cutting grass when he was 11 years old
College education: B.S. in physical and health education, University of Toronto (1976); master’s in business administration, York University (1978)
Resides: Toronto
Grew up: Toronto
Executive most admired: Pierre Boivin, president and chief executive officer, Montreal Canadiens and the Bell Centre
Brand most admired: Adidas
Favorite vacation spot: Muskoka, Canada
Last book read: “Who’s Your Caddy? Looping for the Great, Near Great, and Reprobates of Golf,” by Rick Reilly


What are the first three things on your agenda as you begin your new position?
No. 1: I am securing regulation and sanction of our sport of mixed martial arts in all provinces across the country. No. 2 is to continue to grow our pay-per-view business. No. 3 is to continue to grow the UFC brand across the country.

In trying to secure regulation and sanctioning in Canada, is there an order of provinces or some provinces that are top priority?
No. 1 would be Ontario, where Toronto is located. We are working on that process right now. After that, there is a federal process that we are going through which is tied to Bill 83 of the Criminal Code and trying to get that changed so that it is legal in all 10 provinces without having to have provincial sanction that would follow.

The Ontario provincial government has stated that regulating MMA is not a top priority. How do you make it a top priority?
It’s education. Right now there is a lot of awareness of what mixed martial arts is, but there is a lack of understanding and that requires education. We are trying to make sure that people make informed decisions with all the facts in front of them in terms of the reasons why we want the sport regulated.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
The saga of the Phoenix Coyotes and where they are going to end up when they leave Phoenix, because I believe it is merely a matter of time before they leave Phoenix. I authored the relocation application for Jim Balsillie when he was attempting to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. Part of the NHL’s requirements in their constitution is that a relocation application has to be submitted, and I and the team at Level5 authored that.

What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
I would like to see more transparency at all levels within sport in terms of how business is conducted.

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