Tonight the UFC embarks upon a historical moment in North American Mixed Martial Arts History.
UFC 129: St-Pierre vs. Shields, is the most highly hyped card in the company's history next to UFC 100 and for good reason; when you examine all the facts involved, it's plain to see why UFC President Dana White can be quoted as saying that he's "pretty damn excited" at a press conference this past Wednesday. Here is a quick breakdown:
- Toronto's Rogers Centre sold out to an estimated 55,000+ fans within hours of tickets going on sale.
- Georges St.-Pierre, the UFC as well as Canada's poster boy for MMA will be defending his welterweight title for perhaps the final time before possibly making a move up to Middleweight.
- The highly underrated former Strikeforce Middleweight champ, Jake Shields will be making his run at an upset
- Randy "The Natural" Couture will have what he's announced as the final fight of his legendary career against top 10 Light Heavyweight, Lyoto Machida.
- Featherweight Champ, Jose Aldo makes in promotional debut
- Early estimates anticipate a gate of over 11 Million Dollars to be generated from this event
- A Fan Expo, which began yesterday, and will go until just a few hours before the start of the card, serves as a perfect catalyst for fans to be amped up.
Once the smoke clears, and North American attendance records for MMA have been broken, what's next? The success of this show is merely a stepping stone to what can amount to future annual events of this nature where the number of fans in attendance would rival that of an NFL game during the playoffs.
Imagine over 80,000 fans screaming their heads off for a fully stacked year ending card with a minimum of three titles on the line or even perhaps dare I say a certain Superfight that we've all been waiting for.
The worldwide total attendance record for an MMA event was set at Pride Shockwave in 2002. Held at the Tokyo Outdoor Stadium as a Pride and K-1 co-production, the event drew over 70,000 fans (though it was later announced as being 91,107).
With an appearance at the colossal football palace which is Cowboys Stadium, tonight's record would serve as a mere footnote in the pages of MMA history. The house that Jerry Jones built actually has all the elements to put on an epic MMA card:
- The capacity for it's primary sport, football is 80,000; however it can be expanded to a maximum of over 100,000 depending on the event.
- The 3rd largest High Definition television screen in the world hangs from the ceiling. At 160 feet by 72 feet, every eye in attendance will be able to see each nose crunching punch with explicit detail.
- In addition, the card can be filled out by Texas natives such as Mike Swick, and the recently chivalrous Roger Huerta.
However this will all be a pipe dream if fans aren't as receptive to the much larger venue tonight. The success of the UFC's live shows has always been dependent on a high level of production quality which ultimately gave the fan a very intimate experience.
That level of intimacy has always excelled at attendance levels of under 25,000, but now at over double the amount of the people than they had turnout at their largest event to date, UFC 124, this will be the true test of whether or not the UFC can take their global dominance to the next level.