Ticket sale validates UFC cutting edge of ring sports

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:27 PM ET

Like a rear naked choke, the last puffs of air are being squeezed out of those who argue that mixed martial arts is not a sport.

It was a specious argument to begin with.

The violence led to the popular belief that it was nothing more than bar room brawling in an octagon.

You don’t have to look far to recognize it has gone far beyond that.

Most mixed martial artists are superb athletes with the ability to give and withstand brutal punishment.

There will be those who will continue to pooh-pooh the sport even as it relegates other sports like boxing to the fringes.

The UFC staged a tour de force like few others Thursday with its presale of tickets for UFC 129 on April 30 at the Rogers Centre.

The card features two Canadians in co-main event championship bouts, George St. Pierre and Thamesford’s Mark Hominick.

The tickets went on sale and all 42,000 were sold in a few hours. After an hour, there were only single and restricted view tickets available.

Tickets ranged in price from $50 to $800. You had to pay a $90 premium to join the fan club to have first crack at tickets.

No doubt the despicable scalpers and resale ticket companies will get more than their pound of flesh for those they managed to obtain.

Now organizers have to find a few thousand more tickets so some will be available for the regular public when they attempt to buy them.

Even to those involved in mixed martial arts fighting on a regular basis, Friday’s response was stunning.

For a ring sport it’s validation it’s not on the cutting edge, but is the cutting edge. It’s been a long time since an event generated this kind of excitement in Toronto. (OK, so even if the competition is the Leafs, the UFC is still good stuff.)

There will probably be more than 45,000 people at the event. Once you get to the fifth level at the Rogers Centre, it won’t be about seeing the fight live, it will be about absorbing the atmosphere and living the experience.

Hominick laughed when asked what he thought of the tickets going as quickly as they did.

“I’m surprised it took that long,” he said. “No, we thought they would sell 20,000 right away but 42,000 . . . It is the hottest ticket in town. Everybody from the promoters to the fighters is excited. This type of reaction really gets the fighters excited and everyone wants to put on a good show.”

Hominick was in Toronto recently for a pump it up press conference. This event didn’t need a lot of pumping up.

“Everybody on the UFC roster wanted to be on this card,” Hominick said. “Everybody who fights on this card is going to be a part of history.”

Hominick will fight Jose Aldo in the UFC featherweight title fight. Jakes Shields and St. Pierre with St. Pierre holding the welterweight title.

If there is one thing Hominick can’t stop talking about it’s how much of a dream this is. It is beginning to sink in but even though many of the top fighters are used to the glamour and glitz that MMA has become, fighting in front of 45,000 people or so in what will be a circus-like atmosphere will stop anyone a little short.

Hominick has been a pro for about 12 years and has fought in some places where you wipe your feet not when you are going in but when you leave the place.

“I used to fight in front of 50 people. That was the kind of shows I would get,” he said.

“It became more real at the press conference at the Rogers Centre. There was a fan meet and greet at 4 o’clock and people were lining up outside in the cold from 10 a.m. just to get an autograph. They finally had to shut the doors. I felt bad. People were waiting outside and we had to stop because we had to go somewhere else. It was insane.”

One of the good things about the almost ridiculous speed with which the tickets sold, the fighters don’t have to worry so much about running around trying to promote the card. It will give them time to focus on training.

Hominick begins his official camp at his Adrenaline Training Centre in London on March 1, although he has already been working out.

His trainer/manager Shawn Tompkins of Team Tompkins will return to London from Las Vegas the last two weeks of March giving the pair six weeks together.

If anyone still needs convincing about the validity of MMA as a sport the fighters’ grueling training regimen should lay waste to that misconception quicker than a roundhouse kick to the chops.


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