With ESPN recently reporting Montreal’s loss of December’s UFC 140 to Toronto, the city’s MMA calendar is instead being filled up by local promoters. Last Wednesday, ex-TKO/UCC president Stéphane Patry announced his intention to recapture his former promotional glory with a new organization, Instinct MMA. From 2000 to 2008, Patry put on over 40 events, paving Quebec’s MMA landscape, and helping kick off the careers of future UFC contestants Georges St-Pierre, Mark Hominick, Patrick Côté, Sam Stout, and David Loiseau, among others.
With an as-yet unspecified October return date in mind, Patry thus far has former UFC middleweight contender Patrick Côté (15-7), ex-hockey enforcer and popular TKO draw Steve Bossé (8-1), and heavyweight boxer Eric Barrak (0-0, 5-0 boxing) in tow, among others. Per the promoter, their opponents, a date and venue for the event, and the complete 14 fight card should be revealed at a press conference in the coming weeks.
Thus far, Patry’s well-publicized return announcement has been met by enthusiasm from a portion of the fans and fighters who remember TKO’s glory days (as many as 8000 fans at the Bell Centre), but also by skepticism in other quarters, namely former business associates now involved with Ringside MMA. Whether he directly admits it or not, Patry’s announced October return date is a shot across Ringside’s bow. Quebec’s current #1 promotion will host their 12th event at the Bell Centre on October 21st. Verbal snipes Patry has aimed at his competition only add to the feeling of impending promotional warfare.
With that in mind, now is a good time to take a closer look at Patry’s return announcement, and the wider issues involved.
Today’s Part 1 focuses on the licensing issue, and Patry’s activities since TKO’s dissolution in late 2008. Check back later this week for Part 2, looking at the fighters Patry says he’s signed.
Part 1: Getting a license to promote MMA in Quebec
Patry insists Instinct MMA’s first show will be fully in place in the near future, citing what he described as his solid, long-running relationship with the Régie des Alcools, Courses, et Jeux du Quebec (Quebec’s equivalent of a US athletic commission, and governing body for combat sports). Crucially though, he does not yet have a license to promote. MMA events in Quebec cannot take place without one.
The granting of a license hinges partially on the results and analysis of a standard background investigation by the S.Q., Quebec’s provincial police. Every promoter, fighter, corner man, etc. applying for a Quebec license must complete a form which specifies that:
- I… consent the S.Q. and the Régie to proceed with an investigation concerning my past conduct or my implication with regards to any criminal or penal offence in order to ensure, in the public’s interest, the competent and integral exercise of combat sports practiced by professionals and to maintain their good reputation.
- I also consent that the S.Q. communicates to the representatives of the Régie all the information it obtained in order to deliver or renew the licenses.
Speaking last week, Patry said the process was on its way, and that he expects to be licensed in time. Whether this will actually be the case is unclear.
Historically, the Régie isn’t a body sensitive to being pressured time-wise. Further, should anything come up during the background check, which will likely be focused on Patry’s years promoting TKO, (given existing and available information, I have zero evidence or reason to believe something will), the Régie isn’t known to be the most forgiving of regulatory bodies (just ask some of Quebec’s as-yet unlicensed, repentant fighters and corner men). It is worth noting that Patry did previously promote (with license) in the province over a ten-year period, ending in 2009.
Patry’s aggressive, current approach – announcing a comeback before he’s licensed – may not pay off however. According to the Régie, the S.Q. investigation’s end date isn’t set, nor is the time required to analyze it once it is, meaning Patry could potentially still be unlicensed come October.
As of now, it leaves him about two months to get his ducks in a row. Despite the no-license possibility, Patry has said all the fights were signed and official, which again seems premature. A potential problem too, should the event be delayed, given October is the time-frame when he stated the fighters were available.
An alternate and likely far-fetched scenario should things not work out in time would be for Patry to use someone else’s license to promote his event. Gary Chartrand, Steve Bossé’s manager, was granted a license to promote this year, leading to the cancelled Challenge MMA event in June. Theoretically, Patry could use that license to promote the event by proxy. This would likely require Patry to add Chartrand as a co-owner of Instinct, in order to be able to use the license. For now Patry is Instinct MMA’s sole owner, though he said last week he’s looking to bring in partners in the not too distant future. (Update: after this article was published, this is in fact what happened. Due to the delay, Chartrand is officially the promoter of the first event.)
Patry’s last promotional outing in Montreal ended badly. After TKO’s last show, TKO 35 in October 2008, Patry returned with Strikebox (later renamed Titans Fighting) in early 2009. The Régie’s legal inability to endorse alternate, stand-up only based rules resulted in the event ending in chaos. James Thompson, facing Steve Bossé in the main event, went against a supposed backstage agreement to keep things standing (more details here and here and here), and quickly took his opponent down. When chairs and beer began flying into the ring courtesy of bewildered fans, the fight was stopped by referee Yves Lavigne and ruled a no contest.
When asked about the incident last week, Patry claimed the Régie held no ill will about the event, and that both parties’ hands had been tied given the inability to get the alternate rules accepted. How the Régie now sees the near-riot, and Patry’s choice to have fighters agree to stick to stand-up over ground fighting during an MMA rules event remains to be seen. That the Régie did not strip Patry of his license after the event however suggests this won’t be an issue now. Either way, the debacle led to a rapid exit for the organization.
Patry was next seen promoting another stand-up fighting event in New Jersey in April-May of 2010, also titled Instinct, sporting a familiar logo. It was called off before it took place, per Patry due to visa issues for his production team and fighters’ entourages, which then interfered with venue and pay-per-view scheduling.
Now back in Montreal, Patry specified Wednesday that he’s dedicating himself solely to MMA. His days of managing fighters he promoted (including in the past Steve Bossé and GSP) are also over, he added. Current regulation in Quebec bans such a double role regardless.
The first piece of Patry’s comeback continues to hinge on whether or not he’ll be granted a license in time for October. The coming weeks and months should give us an answer to this question.
Check back later this week for Part 2 and 3 of Montreal MMA News’s look at Patry’s comeback.