Fight fans are counting down the hours to the biggest mixed martial arts show in history as the UFC put a strangle hold on Toronto.
Thousands of people from around the world converged on Yonge-Dundas Square Thursday for the UFC’s Take Over Toronto event, aimed at getting fans geared up for fight night.
“This is an awesome event,” said Toronto resident Marlon Valencia, 21, in the square. “You get to come here and meet some of the fighters, who are all down to earth.”
Valencia had an opportunity to meet Josh Koscheck, one of the many fighters on hand, and he took his chances in a frightening stare down with the UFC’s bad boy.
“He’s a tough guy,” the 21-year-old said. “He gave me a really tough stare down, but I didn’t flinch.”
Koscheck got the crowd riled up when he said he’s “looking forward to partying with some Canadians” while he’s in town.
He’s one of more than 50 guest fighters in the city this week.
And even though Koscheck was beaten up badly by Montreal’s George St.-Pierre in his last bout, he’s predicting GSP will hang onto his welterweight belt when he fights Jake Shields in the main event, the match everyone is excited about.
“I think that George is just too well rounded right now,” Koscheck said.
The legendary Royce Gracie, Jon Fitch, Sam Stout and Ryan Bader were also on hand to sign autographs and pose for photos.
Even the lovely Chandella Powell, one of the UFC’s Octagon Girls, made an appearance.
And Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stopped by to welcome the UFC to town. “I said we were going to bring (the UFC) here and I’m fulfilling a promise,” Ford said, adding that hosting the fights are good for the city’s economy.
Fans were also able to experience what it’s like for fighters to weigh in as well as have their vertical leap and punching power measured.
Jaynine Solomon, 26, travelled all the way from L.A. to be part of the historical UFC 129, which goes Saturday night in front of a packed house of 55,000 fans at the Rogers Centre.
She couldn’t resist tossing a replica UFC strap over her shoulder and posing for a picture.