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The time is nearly upon us! This Saturday, Toronto, Ontario will host its first-ever mixed martial arts show. UFC 129, a huge pay-per-view event is set to take place at the Rogers Centre in front of an expected crowd of more than 55,000. Amazingly, mixed marital arts was not even a legal sport in Toronto at this time last year!
Last August, we blogged about the Ontario government finally legalizing MMA. According to UFC President, Dana White, the legalization of the sport in Ontario was inevitable as the province is considered MMA’s biggest hot spot for both fans and fighters. And the people of Ontario have certainly spoken to prove White’s theory correct.
When tickets went on sale for UFC 129 several weeks ago, they sold out within minutes. In fact, the pre-sale sold over 40,000 seats leaving many fans disappointed at the prospect of not being able to attend. As Chris Doucette of The Toronto Sun reports today, this Saturday’s event will be the biggest mixed martial arts show in history.
People from all over the world will be visiting Toronto to see UFC 129 for themselves. Featuring Canadian Georges St-Pierre in the main event defending his Welterweight Championship against Jake Shields, this Saturday’s show will practically have the world watching.
The sheer number of visitors to the city is just one of the many reasons that fans of the sport encouraged Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty to legalize the sport. Once thought of as “barbaric” – and perhaps still considered so by many – MMA features athletes who compete using a variety of disciplines including Brazlian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, karate, and Muay Thai boxing.
Unquestionably, the sport has a ravenous following. The allowance of MMA fighters to compete in Ontario has undeniably injected a major boost to the provincial economy already with events taking place all week long throughout Toronto. Including an MMA expo at Toronto’s Direct Energy Centre, UFC is making quite the impact in the city this week.
Tom Wright is the UFC’s director of Canadian operations. Said Wright: “Without question, this will be one of those global events that if you don’t have a ticket, then you’re going to want to make sure you watch on pay-per-view.” Doucette goes on to note that tickets for the show were purchased from fans in all ten Canadian provinces and all three territories.
As well, fans from 48 of the 50 United States are on their way to Toronto. And with the exception of Antarctica, people from every continent in the world will also be attending UFC 129. Wright believes upwards of $40 million will be injected into the local economy by the end of the weekend.
“All of those people coming from out of town will stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and buy beers at bars,” he said. If this event doesn’t boost the local economy, it appears as if nothing will!