UFC 113: Machida vs Shogun and the Montreal Canadiens vs the UFC

Leon Horne@@Leon_HorneAnalyst IMay 3, 2010

The UFC has come to Montreal twice now and will be making its third appearance in “The Sin City” to the North this coming Saturday.

Montreal is known for being a very multicultural city with a party atmosphere. The combination of these two factors make for some excellent festivals and events. One of the things that defines the city of Montreal most is the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.

The Montreal Canadiens are one of the oldest and most successful professional sports teams of all time. Founded in 1909, the team has racked in a record 24 Stanley Cups. They have been Stanley Cup champions 25 percent of the time since the inception of the NHL in 1917.

Now I am no statistician, but 24 championships in the span that the Montreal Canadiens have won them is a staggering statistic. To put things in perspective, the Green Bay Packers of the NFL have 12 championships to their name since 1919 and they hold the most championships in the NFL.

Lately the Montreal Canadiens and their faithful fans have been let down season after season. Every year the Canadiens are expected to vie for the Stanley Cup in the post season, but the team’s efforts have not come to fruition since 1993.

Interestingly enough the last time the Canadiens brought home a Stanley Cup was the first time a combat sports organization by the name of the UFC opened its doors. The UFC held its first event, UFC 1 on November 12, 1993.

Since 1993, the UFC can be defined by a mediocre start, a rock bottom low and to now being one of the fastest growing professional sports organizations in the world today.

Part of building the UFC into one of the best mixed martial arts promotions in the world today was getting it out there on an international level. By hosting events in different cities around the world the UFC spreads the “virus” UFC president Dana White talks about so often. One of the host cities used to spread the infection happened to be Montreal.

Canadians are huge hockey fans and everyone knows that hockey is well known for its “rough house" style of play. Hockey is a contact sport with a lot of adrenaline, so much so that in almost every National Hockey League game, fans get to see that adrenaline boil over in the form of a fight or altercation. For better or for worse fighting and physical play is simply part of the North American style of hockey.

It comes to no surprise then that when the UFC first came to Montreal it was a record setting event. In April 2008, UFC 82: Serra vs St. Pierre 2 sold out in one minute which was faster than any other event held by the UFC.

The sell out in Montreal remained a record until UFC 115: Liddell vs Franklin broke it which is being held in another Canadian city, Vancouver later this summer. In addition to the fastest sell out record, UFC 82 also held the attendance record at 21,390 people only to be broken in Montreal by 61 people at UFC 97: Redemption.

It obviously helps that UFC 82 was anchored by French Canadian and Montreal Native Georges St. Pierre, but with the way Vancouver sold out it can’t be argued that Canadians aren’t fans of mixed martial arts and the UFC.

UFC 113: Machida vs Shogun 2 is the third time the UFC comes to Montreal in as many years and it’s the second time the UFC puts on a rematch as a main event in Montreal. Lyoto Machida’s rematch to defend his belt against Mauricio Rua has to be one of the most anticipated fights of 2010.

Machida won the last fight against Rua, but it wasn’t without controversy. Many fans and media alike felt as though Rua had done more than enough with his leg kicks to win the title. The judges saw otherwise, but Dana White was quick to call an immediate rematch due to the controversy surrounding the fight.

Supporting the UFC 113 card are some great fights with a lot of Canadian talent. French Canadian middleweight Patrick Cote is making his return against Alan Belcher after suffering a devastating knee injury against Anderson Silva back in fall 2008. Exciting Canadian lightweight Sam Stout is taking on Jeremy Stephens.

A fight with title implications in the welterweight division will have Georges St. Pierre watching as Josh Koschek takes on Paul Daley in a fight that is sure to excite.

Another big name on the card is Internet phenomenon Kimbo Slice vs fellow Ultimate Fighter competitor Matt Mitrione in what might be a make it or break it fight for the YouTube brawler.

One thing is for certain, the UFC isn’t scared of the Montreal Canadiens or the NHL as this will be the third time the UFC hosts an event at the Bell Center in Montreal on the same day the Canadiens are trying to notch a win in one of their playoff series.

In 2008, the Canadiens won the Eastern conference and were expected to go deep in the playoffs once again. The Boston Bruins were pushing them in their round one series and UFC 83 was held on the same Saturday that Montreal was trying to win a game six and send the Boston Bruins golfing.

The Canadiens lost game six to Boston and ended up winning the series in game seven. Unfortunately for Canadiens fans, their run was stopped in the second round by a very tough Philadelphia squad in just five games.

In 2009, the Canadiens had a tough season. There were high expectations, but they just managed to squeak into the playoffs. The expectations in the playoffs were low and with reason, the Canadiens lost a best of seven series to a tough Boston team in just four games. Once again the UFC held an event in Montreal on the same day as Montreal played game two against Boston in Boston.

Maybe the title of this article lacks some truth because the UFC seems to have had great success in Montreal despite being on the same night as Canadiens playoff games. In fact, the UFC is probably using the power of the Montreal Canadiens to strengthen the event, particularly on the pay per view side of things.

There is no doubt, ticket holders to UFC 113 are going to be checking their Iphones and Blackberrys for the score in game five of the Canadiens’ round two playoff game against the always exciting Pittsburgh Penguins.

What makes things so exciting this year, is the fact that the Montreal Canadiens who were not a threat in the regular season squeaked in as the lowest seeded team in the playoffs. The Canadiens have already knocked off the best team in the NHL in the Washington Capitals and have levelled the series at one a piece with last year’s champions the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Montreal Canadiens’ fans are starting to believe in their team and with hot goaltending, tight defence, and an opportunistic offense, anything can happen. All this hype and excitement might be great for UFC 113.

I’m a Canadiens fan and Montreal native myself and anyone who is a fan of the Canadiens or who has lived in Montreal knows when it’s playoff time even if they don’t pay attention to the sport. Cars are out with Canadiens' door flags flying strong, people walk around with face paint on game night and horns are honking all around the city after a big win at home or away.

With all the excitement playoff hockey in Montreal generates, the economy for local businesses definitely sees a boost. Sports bars are packed on game nights whether it’s a Saturday or a Monday and retail stores are selling jerseys and memorabilia left, right, and center. So how does all this focus on the Canadiens help the UFC in Montreal as oppose to hinder it? The timing is key.

One thing that never changes in the NHL Eastern conference playoffs are 7:00 or 7:30 start times and this can be expected rounds one through three, in the Stanley Cup final start times can be later due to some of the games being played in the West. The result of these earlier start times is that the games are usually over between 9:30 and 10:00.

Basically, the Canadiens playoff games are wrapping up exactly when the UFC begins its main event broadcast at 10:00. Most sports bars in Montreal will show all Canadiens games and they will all show the UFC events in Montreal. The bars are packed for both events and does it really come as a surprise?

A bunch of people have been drinking and watching their beloved hockey team win or lose. If you’re a hockey fan, you know that good playoff hockey will get your adrenaline pumping. What better way to release it then watching a few fights between some of the best fighters combat sports has to offer?

I can’t count how many Saturdays I’ve gone to the local sports bar to watch the last two periods of the hockey game and then caught the UFC event at 10:00, it just seems like a natural thing to do.

More importantly for the UFC’s pay per view numbers is the number of people who get together at one of their friend’s houses to watch the game. I think I have seen six of the eight Canadiens’ playoff games with friends or family at my house or theirs.

Everyone knows UFC pay per views don’t come cheap and the most economical way to see it is to go to the local sports bar or even better with a bunch of friends at someone’s house.

Seeing as how the 10:00 hockey game is a little early to end a night of drinking and fun with friends on a Saturday, how often do you think a group of friends hanging out to watch the hockey game decide to buy the UFC event that follows? Obviously the statistics on this are difficult to find, but it certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put the two together.

This is a great example of how the UFC doesn’t always have to be competing with the other more established sports out there. If the timing is right as it is with the UFC events put on in Montreal, the UFC can use the established fan base and hype of another sport like hockey to help strengthen their pay per view numbers and fan base as well.

In any case, this Saturday night is going to be an exciting night for fight fans and hockey fans alike. Hopefully fans will get to see one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the UFC get laid to rest as Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua faceoff for round two.

As a fan of the Canadiens all I can say is “GO HABS GO” (Habs is the English nickname for the Canadiens derived from the French nickname les habitants). 


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