Yesterday, the UFC—and indeed the sport of MMA—shattered the world record for all-time attendance at a North American MMA event. Impressive enough, but the best part? The event itself isn’t for three months.
UFC 129 will feature GSP vs. Jake Shields, Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick and Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida. It will also feature a small army of rabid, MMA-starved Torontonians finally getting the card they deserve—and setting the bar for all MMA crowds to follow.
UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre is the biggest UFC event in company history. Hands down. Biggest card, biggest PPV event, biggest mainstream media push in UFC history.
Okay, so any Brock Lesnar card might still rival it for “mainstream attention.” But who cares? These are the guys who miss world title fights and P4P clashes to cover Jose Canseco or Herschel Walker “fights,” or to watch Gina Carano try to make weight.
So I say let the “lamestream media” cover what they want to (and excuse me while I let the requisite number of brain cells die for quoting Sarah Palin).
As it usually does, the UFC offered a special pre-sale of tickets through their online “UFC Fight Club,” a premium subscription service that allows you to…well, order UFC tickets a day in advance. Aside from an exclusive forum and some videos, that’s pretty much it.
And the first rule of this Fight Club? Talk about it. A lot. Because if you want to catch a UFC event like UFC 129 live and in person, a UFC Fight Club membership is just about the only way you can. If you wait for the general sale, you’re taking your chances and swimming with the sharks.
Or rather, swimming with the scalpers.
Yesterdays pre-sale moved 40,000 tickets in what seemed like minutes. Some fans were even turned away at this special pre-sale, so strong was the demand.
Yet a quick glance over a Stub Hub reveals thousands of UFC 129 tickets for sale, at a hefty markup from their original sale price.
In short, two parties profited massively from the sellout: Dana White, and those damn unscrupulous scalpers!
What can you do though, right? More importantly, what can Dana White and the UFC do? Scalping is an institution in every major sport in the world.
Whenever you find an event that’s in high demand, you’ll find scalpers. Rock concerts, Broadway shows, movie openings, you name it. Scalpers will find a way to get tickets and sell them for a big profit. That’s the free market for you.
So my advice: Shell out for the Fight Club membership, have a good Internet connection and be ready to go, finger hovering over mouse, at 9:59 a.m. That might seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, but as Dana White might say, “So you wanna be a f****** fight fan?”
The other story coming off this gangbusters pre-sale is the masterful way the UFC played the expectations game. For weeks we heard the UFC was looking to draw around 40,000 fans to UFC 129. A big number, but nowhere near the capacity of the Rogers Centre. UFC Canada president Tom Wright even said that 50,000 fans would be “pushing it.”
In hindsight, these statements are revealed to be exactly what I believed them to be: expectation-setting. By predicting 40,000 fans, and then selling that number in the pre-sale alone—before the general sale even gets underway—the UFC can claim UFC 129 attendance “far exceeded expectations,” adding to what will undoubtedly be a triumphant narrative for the UFC surrounding this event.
And finally, this pre-sale bonanza spells good news for future UFC events at big stadiums. And the one stadium Dana White is eyeing above all else is the incredible Cowboys Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys (no, really) and host to this past Sunday’s Super Bowl. The stadium is a massive, state-of-the-art facility capable of housing around 100,000 fans at full capacity.
It was the home of “America’s Team” that convinced Dana White to even hold UFC events at a big stadium in the first place when he caught the Pacquiao vs. Clottey boxing match there. It's no secret that White badly wants to hold his own event in the stadium, and there’s only one fight worthy of headlining that card: Anderson Silva vs. Georges St-Pierre.
So yesterday's news, despite some disappointed grumblings, was good news. For the UFC, for Canadian MMA fans, for scalpers (for good or ill), for the city of Arlington, Texas and the biggest fight in MMA.
Hell, this is victory for the entire sport. History is being made in Toronto right now—and the reverberations will be felt in every corner of the sport.