April 26, 2011
Countown to UFC 129
By CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency
The biggest mixed martial arts show in history is finally upon us.
People from around the world are clamouring to Toronto to take in UFC 129 and the week-long lead-up to Saturday’s fight night at Rogers Centre.
“Without question, this will be one of those global events that if you don’t have a ticket, then you’re going to want to make sure you watch on pay-per-view,” Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of Canadian operations, said Monday.
Tickets have been purchased from all 10 Canadian provinces and all three territories, as well as 48 out of 50 States, and from every continent but Antarctica, Wright said.
The UFC began planning the Toronto show the moment the province lifted its band on MMA last summer.
When 55,000 tickets were scooped in February, triple the previous record, officials knew it was the right choice.
The $11-million gate is a new record for the UFC and Rogers Centre.
“All of those people coming from out of town will stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and buy beers at bars,” Wright said, adding a whopping $40 million may be injected into the local economy by week’s end.
The card also features more Canadian fighters than ever before.
Montreal’s George St.-Pierre put his welterweight title on the line against Jake Shields. And London’s Mark Hominick will try to snatch Jose Aldo’s featherweight belt in the co-main event.
In his last bout before retirement, Randy Couture takes on Lyoto Machida. And locals Sean Pierson, Claude Patrick and Mark Bocek will fight.
The UFC has gone to great lengths to ensure there isn’t a bad seat in the packed house, installing a cube with four massive screens hanging above the octagon, eight big screens around the 500 section and a second large screen to mirror what is already in Rogers Centre.
More than 50 fighters will be in the city as of Tuesday and there’ll be plenty of chances to meet them.
The headliners for UFC 129 will take part in a press conference at the Direct Energy Centre at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Fighters and Octagon Girls will Take Over Toronto at Dundas Square Thursday. And on Friday the “Super Seven” will be at the weigh-ins at the Ricoh Coliseum.
“For the first time ever, we’ll have all seven of our belt holders at the same venue, at the same time,” Wright said.
Then there’s the Fan Expo at the Direct Energy Centre Friday and Saturday.
“It’s all about introducing our sport to as many people as possible,” Wright said.