The UFC’s first foray into Toronto is still a little over two months away, but fan anticipation of the bout is apparently at a fever pitch, at least if you’re measuring by ticket sales.
According to a recent press release, UFC 129–which will take place on April 30th at the Rogers Centre and will feature a welterweight title fight between champ Georges St. Pierre and challenger Jake Shields–has drawn the promotion’s largest gate yet, will far surpass the promotion’s record for largest attendance, and has set the Rogers Centre record for highest gate for a single-day event.
When it was announced through the UFC Fight Club and the UFC newsletter that UFC 129 tickets were on presale, all 42,000 tickets that were up for grabs were purchased almost immediately. This prompted the UFC to rearrange the arena in a way that allowed for extra seating, tickets for which were offered to the general public shortly thereafter and were also bought up with a quickness.
All told, the UFC has sold 55,000 tickets for UFC 129, racking up an $11 million dollar gate. UFC president Dana White spoke with media in regards to the massive success of the event during a recent conference call (props to MMAFighting.com for the transcription)
“I always talk about how big Canada is, and how big we’re growing internationally,” White said. “It was a big move to put 42,000 tickets on sale. Every time we go up to the Bell Centre (in Montreal), we sell that thing out. But the question was, how many more people were really looking for tickets? Is it 25,000? Maybe it’s 29,000? 30,000? When we put 42,000 on sale, I’ll admit I was a little nervous about it and I didn’t know. I’m absolutely blown away by the response.”
White was initially hesitant to expand seating for UFC 129 out of concern for harming the integrity of a live UFC show, but he feels now that the Rogers Centre was able to be configured in a way that will not interfere with the overall atmosphere of the show.
“The one thing that always worried me about doing a stadium was losing that experience that the fans get in anywhere from a 10,000- 20,000-seat arena,” White said. “This place is perfect. The way we’ve laid this out – we put risers in. There won’t be a bad seat in this place. To be able to do a stadium this big and say there won’t be a bad seat in the house, we pulled it off. It’s gonna be great.”
UFC 129 features a four-bout main card as opposed to the usual five-bout structure, allowing for two five round fights to go the distance since UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will also be defending his title–against Mark Hominick–at the event.