There are early signs that card instability and low star power may be dooming UFC 186.
Two days before the event is set to go down, French-Canadian MMA news website MMA Nouvelles reported that UFC officials have closed part of Montreal's Bell Centre, apparently as a result of low ticket sales. (The initial report was subsequently translated and further detailed in a report from Steven Marrocco of MMAJunkie.com.)
Officials for the UFC and Bell Centre confirmed to Marrocco that "a lower-bowl configuration" is now in effect for UFC 186, meaning that tickets for the arena's upper levels are no longer available.
Approximately 5,400 tickets have been sold for the event, according to the report. The Bell Centre has approximately 15,000 seats and can hold about 21,000 people for sporting events, according to the venue's official website.
UFC closing off half of Bell Centre & selling rest of the other half on the cheap for UFC 186...not a good look....— Robert Joyner (@robnashville) April 23, 2015
None of this information bodes well for the UFC. This has not been a red-letter event for the company, which has seen the event's biggest star, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, removed from and then restored to the card as the result of an ongoing legal battle with rival promotion Bellator.
Even with Jackson on the card, though, the 36-year-old's battle with Fabio Maldonado is not exactly a co-main event for the ages. The same could be said for the main event, where flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson—defending his belt against Kyoji Horiguchi—is an enormously talented fighter but not exactly pay-per-view gold.
There's more. Montreal-based welterweight Rory MacDonald was originally scheduled to take on knockout artist Hector Lombard at the event, but that contest was scuttled after Lombard failed a drug test.
Canada, perhaps the most MMA-happy country on planet Earth, has not been a major point of focus during the UFC's recent self-proclaimed global expansion. No doubt hampered by the UFC's efforts to crack new markets and the semi-retirement of Montreal superstar Georges St-Pierre, Canadians have not been receiving the sort of product quality they came to expect from the UFC. That may play a role in fans' decisions about whether to purchase tickets for the card presented to them at UFC 186.
If the ticket sales are indeed sluggish, it will be interesting to see how the pay-per-view buy estimates look once the smoke has cleared the Bell Centre.