February 12, 2011
UFC has stranglehold on T.O. fans
By CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency
Deciding Toronto would be the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first ever stadium show was a bold but calculated move that has paid off big time.
Building on the momentum that began long before Ontario finally lifted its ban on the sport of mixed martial arts, the company’s affable president Dana White announced back in December that UFC 129 would be held at the Rogers Centre on April 30 and the event aimed to smash their previous North American attendance record.
When advance tickets finally went on sale on Thursday, fight fans were chomping at the bit and some 42,000 tickets were snatched up in about seven minutes.
“The response was absolutely overwhelming,” Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of Canadian operations, told the Sun.
It was so overwhelming the UFC quickly decided to add more seats.
Wright wasn’t immediately able to say how many seats were added, but those tickets sold out in four minutes on Friday.
The tickets were originally sold for between $300 and $800 for floor seats.
But some are already being resold for tens of thousands of dollars. Reports online suggest front-row seats are going for a whopping $39,999.
The UFC opened up a select number of additional seats a second time, so there would be some tickets available when they officially went on sale Saturday.
But Wright made it clear the UFC has no intention of trying to break the Rogers Centre’s attendance record of 68,237, set in 2002 with Wrestlemania 18.
Their main concern is that every fan enjoys the show no matter where they are sitting, he said.
As it is, attendance at UFC 129 will be double that of the company’s current record of 21,451, which was set in 2009 at UFC 97 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
When the company president was in town hyping up ticket sales one last time, he said he’s been reluctant to move the UFC into a big stadium for fear of losing the electricity fans have come to expect at the live shows.
“(But) we’re going to do things in this arena that we’ve never done in any arena before,” White said, adding the UFC plans to ensure the live experience is even better than it is in its regular venues.
“We’re taking it to a whole other level,” he said.
Selling 40,000-plus tickets was a lofty goal, but Wright said that’s why the UFC spent a lot of money on advertising, created a new virtual seating plan and made it a double main event.
Stacking the card with Canadians, including fan favourite Georges St. Pierre, also helped.
“We didn’t take anything for granted,” Wright said.
“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”