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If you didn’t notice already, UFC’s Toronto pre-sale figures are a really big deal

By Zach Arnold | February 11, 2011

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You don’t think selling 40,000+ tickets, scalpers or not, for the April 30th show at the Sky Dome (Rogers Centre) is big? Of course it is. Not that this comes as any surprise to us given that I predicted 10 months ago that a show with GSP would easily outdraw the Blue Jays (and it has).

There was great consternation that the Sky Dome was too big of a facility for the UFC to run their debut in Ontario and that they should run the Air Canada Centre. I didn’t buy into that idea because Ontario, along with other major Canadian cities, have been huge PPV-buying markets for the UFC. Naturally, UFC was going to draw big for their first foray into Toronto. I will say that it is quite astonishing just how fast tickets are selling, which is a good thing.

UFC must be hoping and praying for Georges St. Pierre to beat Jake Shields. If the fight is ugly but GSP wins, that’s one thing. If Shields wins and it’s exciting, that’s a crapshoot. If Shields wins and it’s ugly, then I don’t know how hot Toronto would stay as a live-event market. Ultimately, the goal is for St. Pierre to win and look strong so that the ‘dream match-up’ between him and Anderson Silva happens in Toronto.

For the moment, let’s enjoy what (on card) looks like a solid show in Toronto on 4/30 with St. Pierre/Shields, Couture/Machida, and Mark Hominick vs. Jose Aldo for the new UFC Featherweight title. Here’s a transcription of a recent interview that Mr. Hominick did with Mauro Ranallo for The Fight Show at Tuesday’s press conference for the Toronto event:

MAURO RANALLO: “It is an opportunity obviously you’ve been thinking about for a long time. Tell us where you are mentally, knowing that it’s just literally weeks away from what will be the biggest fight of your life taking place here in Toronto.”

MARK HOMINICK: “Like I said, this is the biggest opportunity in my life. This is what I’ve been working for every single day since I’ve been 13 years old and, you know, I’ve been just kind of riding the wave really, you know like, just carrying the momentum. (In) my first fight with Affliction is really when I changed as fighter and really, just that mental edge, I started hitting my prime age where, you know, really my athletic prime and I just carried that streak going forward and I’m ready to go for April 30th.”

MAURO RANALLO: “What proved to be the catalyst of that change? Was it your age, your maturity level, your wisdom, what was it?”

MARK HOMINICK: “Whatever (it was), I’m not sure really what it was, all of a sudden a spark. I just kind of looked around and I looked at the guys I was training with, you know when I was at Xtreme Couture I was with, you know, some of the best of the world like, you know, Tyson Griffin and Gray Maynard and you can go down the list and I’m hanging with these guys and I’m like, you know I can compete with the best in the world. I just got to go out there and prove it and not be so concerned about what my opponent’s going to do. Like when I lost to Rani Yahya and then I’d lost to Josh Grispi, you know like those are two fights, you know, I should have won and I went in there so concerned about what they’re bringing to the table, you know, like with Yahya I was like, man, I don’t want to go the ground with this guy, you know, he’s got such strong jiu-jitsu as opposed to me saying, OK, I’m going to stop his takedowns and I’m going to knock him out and that’s the kind of attitude. It’s almost like there’s a chip on my shoulder, like I got something to prove and it’s been five in a row now, seven of the last eight, and that’s been the big change.”

MAURO RANALLO: “You were already successful in a prior stint with the UFC as a Lightweight and now at your more natural weight at 145, obviously the goose bumps are going to be there. This is, you know, again it’s a Hollywood script almost for you coming from Thamesford, Ontario, and now being a part of this historic event and vying for a world title. Are you counting on maybe Jose Aldo getting those Octagon jitters for the first time?”

MARK HOMINICK: “You know what? When you’re fighting for a title, you’re at the top, you’re at the pinnacle. Those UFC jitters or main event jitters, they should be gone and I’m not expecting him to have any and I’m not, either. I feel like I perform best under the bright lights. If you look at any of my top performances, you know, like UFC 58 I went there against a #1 contender at a weight class above me, I was a 5-to-1 underdog, it was my first time fighting on PPV, first time fighting in Las Vegas, on the televised card at Mandalay Bay and I went out there and finished him in the second round. It’s like those are the kind of fights that I, you know, feel that I show up in top-form, in top mental form, in top physical form under the bright lights and they’re not going to get any brighter than this show in Toronto and that’s where I’m going to showcase.”

MAURO RANALLO: “Stylistically, this is a fan-friendly fight, has all the hallmarks of a Fight of the Night, if not Fight of the Year candidate. You say Jose Aldo’s never faced an opponent like you before, a striker like you.”

MARK HOMINICK: “There’s no question. I believe I am the one question mark in Jose Aldo’s, you know, if you look at his record because like he’s done, like, there’s no denying his skills, denying his credibility as being, you know, within the Top 3 pound-for-pound. No question there. But I think I am the one question mark in his game because he’s never faced an elite striker, you know, high-level and I got the credentials to prove that. Someone who likes to move forward and push the pace, so you know because he’s a very intimidating fighter and you’ve seen a lot of fighters like, you know, one example Mike Brown, the former belt holder, you know you could see how intimidated he was in there against him especially when Jose hurt him early and that’s something that, you know, I’m not going in there intimidated. You know, like, if you let your opponent put the fear of God in you, you’re never going to perform. You got to go out there confident and that’s one thing that I’ve learned over this last little stretch.”

MAURO RANALLO: “You’ve always been a very cerebral fighter, as many Mixed Martial Artists are, the old cliché 90% mental. You have a personal situation as well. Your wife is going to be, close to being due with your first child at around that time. How are you going to be able separate professional from personal and how will it help you?”

MARK HOMINICK: “You know, things in life happen for a reason. If you break it down, you know, like leading up to this I have the biggest title fight of my life, the biggest fight in front of the biggest crowd, fighting in the home province, my wife’s pregnant three days after the title fight, you know, things are in line and I’m just falling, riding the wave and carrying the momentum. Things in life happen for a reason and it’s carrying forward and that’s what’s giving me the motivation.”

MAURO RANALLO: “How do you stay mentally grounded?”

MARK HOMINICK: “You know, just being, moving back home was a big thing, you know. I live in a town of 2,000 people, my wife and I moved back home, just keeping on grounded roots and, you know, I know where I came from and I know where I want to be but I want to be the guy, you know, living in Thamesford but also fighting at the Rogers Centre in front of 42,000 fighting for a world title.”

MAURO RANALLO: “We know what the Hollywood ending for you and for many Canadian fans is but when you visualize the outcome of this fight, how do you see it unfolding? How do you become UFC Featherweight champion?”

MARK HOMINICK: “I’m just going to go out there, fight my fight, and prove why, you know, I have this winning streak going, carry the momentum, and Jose Aldo is beatable and I’m going to prove that on the 30th.”

Topics: Canada, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 23 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

23 Responses to “If you didn’t notice already, UFC’s Toronto pre-sale figures are a really big deal”

  1. David Ditch says:

    Jon Jones wrote a short essay for his hometown paper (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) making the case for MMA legalization. A UFC event would sell out HSBC Arena in Buffalo almost instantly, between area fans and people from Toronto; this story is proof. A basketball-style configuration of the Carrier Dome in Syracuse would also do good business, between western and central NY and some people coming from Kingston.

    But people who ‘know better’ in NYC control everything, so Toronto gets that money.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Toronto is only like an hour away from Buffalo, so yeah I could easily see Buffalo doing a huge gate. But the Buffalo economy itself is really bad so it’s a risk if the Canadians decide to not go over the border for this event.

      • Ligerbomb27 says:

        Us Canadians LOVE MMA, and we’d surely drive across the border to see an event (there are also well over 1M people West of the Greater Toronto Area, where I live, and we’re less than an hour from the Niagara Fall bridge to Buffalo).

        Although, we all have this weird thing about NOT being shot in the face. In Canada that’s almost a non-issue…you cross the border into Buffalo and it’s a freakin’ warzone.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “Jon Jones wrote a short essay for his hometown paper (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) making the case for MMA legalization.”

      You mean Jon Jones’ name was signed at the bottom of a letter.

  2. ttt says:

    “If Shields wins and it’s ugly, then I don’t know how hot Toronto would stay as a live-event market. Ultimately, the goal is for St. Pierre to win and look strong so that the ‘dream match-up’ between him and Anderson Silva happens in Toronto. “

    as someone from toronto i would disagree with this statement. i usually go to bars to watch ufc and most of those that do are full by 9 o’clock. even for crappy cards. in my opinion the general sentiment is more the demand to have live ufc events in toronto. because of the rabid following, there is a lot of awareness of who the top guys are and it’s not just GSP or Brock. a card like last weekend Silva v Belfort would have sold out just as fast.

    and with GSP’s recent non-finishing performances i think less and less people are interested in seeing him fight.

    ps: how do i quote text? and are there any other fancy things

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    And the UFC has the perfect card on paper for this event.

    – 2 Title fights. One with a Canadian Champion the other with a Canadian Challenger.

    – Couture vs. Machida is the ultimae chess.

    – Davis is the UFC’s #1 Prospect right now and in my opinion the most likely to dethrone Jones if he makes a run for it.

    – Henderson vs. Bocek has both an exciting fighter and Canadian.

    Not to mention Diaz/MacDonald is likely going to be a barn burner on SpikeTV.

    You could tell Dana White wasn’t sure how tickets would do beyond 25,000 or so. This was a calculated risk for the UFC that ended up paying off big time. But everything fell into place perfectly for this event.

    Just don’t ask me my opinion on the next UFC PPV (127). What a load of junk that is….

    • The Gaijin says:

      I tried to buy tickets for this on the pre-sale (UFC insider perk) and could not get them even though I was on-line and searching as soon as the sales opened. Just to show you how big this is for Canada we had 6 guys – 2 of us wanting to fly back from NYC to T.O., 3 guys from Calgary and another from Vancouver – all prepared to fly in, get a hotel + have a couple dinners out + hit some bars/bottle service + do some shopping + go see the event. The amount of $$$ that would bring into the city and its businesses will be insane.

      Riiiidiculous. But goes to show you how important Canada is to their base.

  4. david m says:

    If GSP were only allowed to punch with one hand, he would still beat Jake Shields in a non-competitive fight. This is going to look like GSP-Fitch, except with someone 1/20th as tough and game as Fitch, and with much worse standup.

  5. Blue Jay says:

    Comparing UFC tickets sales to the Blue Jays is a complete non-sequitor. There are 81 Blue Jays games in a year. If they played just one game a year at Rogers Centre, it would probably sell out. And if the UFC put on 81 events at the building in six months, attendance is probably going to drop.

    • David M says:

      While I agree entirely with your point, it is also worth noting that ticket prices for the UFC are a lot higher than a baseball game.

  6. Jonathan says:

    For the record, and to keep things honest, ALOT of people predicted a huge crowd and reception in Toronto. Heck, alot of commenters on this blog said as much.

    • David M says:

      Yep. Canada is absolutely bonkers about MMA. Toronto is their biggest city (I think), GSP is the most popular athlete in Canada, and the region has been starved for MMA events. You didn’t need to be Miss Cleo to see this coming.

  7. Steve4192 says:

    The Vancouver Sun is reporting that they sold 55,000 tickets and broke a $10 million dollar gate.

    Holy Crap!

  8. Tradition Rules says:

    This makes me wish I still lived back in Buffalo, just so I could drive to this event! (lived in Phoenix now) 🙂

    Toronto is such an awesome city, having the event there just makesit all the more enjoyable> Wish I could make the trip. :9


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