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One of my favourite brands is finally coming to Canada. After grappling with various athletic commissions through the years over the weight of gloves, the ‘brutality’ of the sport and a few dodgey illegal fights on a First Nations reservation or two, the UFC (that’s Ultimate Fighting Championship) storms into Montreal’s Bell Centre on April 19 for the welterweight fight of the century (so far): Saint Isidore, Quebec’s Georges St. Pierre vs. Long Island, New York’s Matt Serra.

If you’re not one of the 13,000 fans who purchased tickets on the first day (eat that UFC record Mandalay Bay!) or one of the millions more across North America (the huge Spike TV and PPV market) or the U.K. (another PPV market), you probably don’t care. Maybe you even find the sport tasteless, too violent, etc. etc. Fair enough. It’s not always pretty. But it is exciting, especially from a brand/business perspective: underground to mainstream, controversy to commercialism, the ‘end of boxing’ etc. etc. If you have any doubt, just check out the rush of sponsors jostling for space on Spike’s ad breaks, on the Octagon’s mat and on the T-shirts of fighters big and small.

You can get a sense of the rise of Zuffa (UFC’s company) and my own struggle over the pain-pleasure principle of why some love the battling brand in a cover story I did last year on Georges St. Pierre (before his shocking title loss to Serra) for my old gig with Peace Magazine. And you can check out my GSP update, complete with an exclusive Matt Serra interview and double-welterweight photo shoot by Craig Boyko in the mag’s March ’08 issue.

That’s right, after handing in my resignation and sending notice of it round the world, Peace publisher Harris Rosen new my weak spot to get a contribution out of me. I can’t quite explain why it worked. I’ve interviewed thousands of people in my life, a range of folks that reads something like Iron Maiden-Shabba Ranks-Debbie Travis-Bryan Adams-Paul Oakenfold- Jodie Foster’s Army-Slayer-Gregory Isaacs-DJ Keoki-Nate Dogg-Hizb ul Mujahideen-hundreds of ravers-a few CEOs-and beyond.I’d thought I’d finished doing it in the pop realm, but there’s just something exciting about talking to one man about punching another man out, and what kind of a life that man leads. Extreme interviewing?

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