UFC Draws Record Gate, Attendance For Debut Event In Toronto
UFC President Dana White announced that Saturday's UFC 129 at Rogers Centre earned a "record gate" of C$11.5M, according to Darren Yourk of the GLOBE & MAIL. More than 55,000 fans, the “largest crowd in Ultimate Fighting Championship history,” saw Georges St-Pierre defeat Jake Shields in the main event. White said, “Of course we’re coming back. We’d be back next Saturday if we could. We proved we could pull off our first stadium show and we can do it again” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/1). UFC's previous records were 23,000 tickets sold for UFC 100 headlined by a Brock Lesnar-Frank Mir fight, and a $5.3M gate for UFC 66 featuring a Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz match (L.A. TIMES, 5/1).
TAKING OVER: In Toronto, Jim Coyle wrote if the sellout crowd for UFC 129 “didn't seem quite as family-ish a crowd as, say, your typical Blue Jays game, a great many young couples did apparently turn the first major MMA foray into Ontario into date night.” The numbers “tell the tale of the sport's exploding popularity,” as tickets to the event were “sold in all 10 provinces, in 48 U.S. states and on all continents save Antarctica.” Coyle wrote, “It's hard to think of any outfit as outlaw when it's selling official souvenir programs at $20 a pop and has sponsored a community works initiative to help at-risk communities” (TORONTO STAR, 5/1). Also in Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote UFC execs “know how to put on a show,” and they “know how to make an event, an event.” The sport is “at times brilliant, at times vicious, at times troubling,” but there is “nothing like this anywhere else in sports and maybe that’s a good thing” (TORONTO SUN, 5/1). The GLOBE & MAIL's Yourk noted UFC put its "stamp on the Rogers Centre, hanging huge screens around the top of the building to give fans in the 500 section a better look at the action" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/1).
ON THE UPSWING: In London, Gareth Davies noted MMA is “still heavily -- and wrongly – misunderstood,” but “in Canada, that ‘misunderstanding’ appears not to be the case.” UFC has “proved recession-proof, grossing around half a billion US dollars in the last two fiscal years.” There also is the “growth and merchandising within the industry, supported by an affluent middle class” (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 4/30). YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Iole noted MMA is “no longer fractured like it once was.” UFC parent company Zuffa's recent acquisition of Strikeforce added to “its list of purchases following PRIDE Fighting Championship, World Fighting Alliance and World Extreme Cagefighting.” About 98.9% of the “world’s top talent is now under the same banner.” The vision that White had for the company in ’01 “has clearly come to fruition,” as “virtually any match that any fan wants to see now can be made.” Iole wrote the “only losers in this could be the fighters themselves.” With “no legitimate alternatives for which their managers to shop them, they are in a way at the mercy” of White and UFC Owners the Fertitta brothers. But for the fans, it is "full-steam ahead" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/29).
HAUTE COUTURE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote UFC “doesn’t get here to UFC 129, in a rocking stadium, with a $12.1 million gate and a worldwide pay-per-view audience, without” Randy Couture, who retired after his bout against Lyoto Machida Saturday. Couture’s matches against Liddell from ‘03-06 “drove MMA to a then-unheard of level of popularity.” Couture since has “invested in the sport” and created his own clothing line (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/1).