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UFC 83 ticket sales should make the UFC re-think expansion plans

With the latest news that UFC Fight Club members sold out the promotion’s pre-sale for UFC 83 in Montreal on April 19 along with the likelihood that the remaining lot of tickets to the Bell Centre will be bought up when they go on sale to the public on Friday, it begs the question; why did it take so long for the UFC book a show in Canada?

I understand that it’s not easy booking a venue in Canada during hockey season. But while the NHL season seemingly lasts forever, there is an offseason.

Selling over 14,000 tickets to UFC Fight Club members is no joke even though not all 14,000 were “true” members of the Fight Club. Tickets technically went on sale to the general public on Sunday. Anyone willing to pay the $79.95 to join the UFC Fight Club this past weekend was given the chance to buy tickets.

Ticketmaster makes it so easy that you don’t even have to sign up through the UFC’s web site, as there’s a signup function right on the Ticketmaster page when you go to buy tickets for the event. That means someone who has been never been in the Fight Club before has just as much access to the pre-sale as someone who has been in it for two seconds. In some ways, fans were asked to pay a $79.95 surcharge for premium seating selection. But if you’re a hardcore UFC fan from Canada, that’s a small price to pay for good seats.

The enthusiasm for UFC 83 is interesting in that it raises the issue as to why the UFC didn’t begin their International expansion plans with Canada before venturing into any other country. Whenever UFC president Dana White talks about the UK expansion, he talks about how the promotion is losing money. Ticket sales are strong for the UK events but the UFC is expected to sell out the 21,500 seat Bell Centre is no time flat. The UFC is not only moving more tickets for Montreal than UK events, but they’re moving them faster.

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12 COMMENTS
  • d_berry says:

    As a massive MMA fan living in Ireland (and there are quite alot of us!!) the UK shows represent the only option most of us can afford to get to see a UFC event live. I agree the Canadian show looks like it will be a massive seller (the biggest the UFC has ever seen) and the option will be there for them to organise more events in Canada. There needs to be a balance where the UFC is able to move around, expanding its fan base while still keeping its roots in Las Vegas but also moving to new parts of the U.S. like Ohio which has proved successful lately. Its a challenge for Dana and the Fertitta’s to keep doing this without creating too many cards and compromising on the quality of the line up’s, Particularly when he mentions they want to move into Europe. I can’t see ventures into the likes of Italy, Germany and France proving to be anything but major money losses for quite some time.

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  • Sam Cupitt says:

    If they were just going to where the foreign talent is they’d have done like 10 shows in Brazil by now.

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  • Kelvin says:

    I would have ventured into Canada before the UK as well. Giving that the TV market is different overseas…After UFC 70…I would have done my homework on that before doing another show over there.

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  • canuck says:

    Canada’s a tricky place for MMA, it’s not like Ohio, where you there’s 10 million people within a 6 hour drive. The Bell center in Montreal is one of a very few venues that have the right mix of population/laws/accessibility.

    Vancouver won’t allow MMA in the city (where all the large venues are) Edmonton or Calgary are possible, but the the chances of selling out an arena aren’t high. There’s no chance of an event in Ontario (Toronto) for years – the sport is not sanctioned. Quebec is the only real option, and there are maybe three cities in that province that could put on an event like this.

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  • cyphron says:

    It’s obvious why the UFC waited. They waited for GSP to regain his belt.

    Canada is huge with population separated by long stretches of empty land. England is smaller with huge dense populations packed close together.

    The first show in Canada will be big. But can Canada sustain this enthusiasm? I think so, as long as GSP retains his belt.

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  • Derek B. says:

    when is the UFC going to go to Japan with an event?

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  • metro says:

    Montreal, Toronto (when and if) and Calgary are the only real spots, but definitely Calgary. As I used to live there, major events would see lots of people from all over. I’m in the prairies now and will and have made a 7+ hour drive to see a show etc. Because central Canada is so spread out, more people are willing to travel, and this also makes sure they’re damn happy to be there. I know people who are trying to get in on Montreal right now, and facing a 3 day 1way drive.

    As far as Japan goes, I don’t know how the UFC will be accepted there, considering the people may see the UFC as the company that dismantled PRIDE FC and scattered their heroes across the globe.

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  • pr0cs says:

    It is rather surprising they waited this long but it’s likely because they think they have Canada “in the bag”. They’re right though because SpikeTV is on regular cable here, we get all the content that made the UFC big in the USA, the same can’t be said about the UK so they likely “seized the opportunity” of the explosion of the brand to try and grow it in the UK while it’s really hot.
    The problem is, without the mainstream content (like TUF) available to a large number of homes in the UK it’s still a tough sell for a very American (in production) product.

    The other problem with Canada will be venues, Montreal is perfect because they’ve ran MMA events for a long time now, and already have some very successful orgs like TKO who regularly sell some 4000+ tickets to their events. Outside of Montreal though there may be problems. Ontario is a wash due to draconian governing bodies, East coast likely doesn’t have big enough venues or population to support a huge event. Edmonton/Calgary may work however neither have a huge venue to hold an event, though both citys regularly host MMA events so there is likely enough interest.

    My other feeling is that the UFC needs to stop holding so many events in Vegas, with the recent news that a large number of ‘comp’ tickets for 81 were given out I have to question the need to have so many shows in Vegas. Unless they have some really sweet deal with the casinos (which is likely not the case) I have to think that the extra cost of taking the show on the road is easily offset by the increased ticket and merchandising sales. UFC 83 will likely sell out and I would no be surprised if they put a closed-circuit venue for the same event in Montreal and sell that out as well. Stuff like that makes me think that it’s time to stop doing so many events in Vegas.

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  • Evan says:

    The UFC was going to Canada after GSP won the belt the first time but for some reason they pulled out.

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  • Dan Cruickshank says:

    Outside of Montreal, I believe Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver could all host mega events. I’m in Calgary so I might be biased, but Calgary is nuts for MMA. Hardcore Fighting Championships is a promotion losely based out of Calgary (the proprietors are Calgarians) and there first show headlined by Joe Doerkson with special guests Franklin and Liddell drew 4500 paid. The next event with a stronger card headline by Aleksander Emelianenko vs. Bobbish had a strong showing I’d say +3000 people. The card was better but without Franklin+Liddell I don’t expect the casual fans to be drawn in as much. Although, FEDOR was at the show as was Josh Barnett as a trainer. But the casual fan does not know their greatness.

    Then the most recent HFC show from this best February headlined by Little Nog vs Some Canadian with overall the strongest card yet, it was back up to +4500. Even the nose bleeds of the “Corral” were full.

    MMA is everywhere in Calgary, and there always seems to be strong support for even the smaller shows. And I don’t think i have to mention the MMA / Wrestling cross-over. Calgary has a -strong- heritage when it comes to pro wrestling and show the “sport” some crazy love. Those same fans would come out for a UFC in droves.

    Not to mention all the money in Calgary. We’re a very rich city.

    This UFC in Montreal bodes will for a UFC in Calgary.

    Cock-a-hoop!

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  • Zack says:

    I think the UFC, especially Dana and the Brothers, deserve enormous credit for where they’ve taken organized MMA. That said, I think you could also find quite a few poor business decisions they’ve made, including the purchase of PRIDE, Dana’s decision to openly bash fighters by name, their confusing positioning of the WEC as “not a minor league”, and now their expansion plans. Not knowing the roadblocks to holding shows in Canada it’s hard to fault them too much, but the insane demand shows they probably hadn’t done their homework on the Canadian market.

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  • bubbafat says:

    Something I don’t think that the rest of the world realizes about Canadians is that they don’t mind driving a couple of hours just to stay a couple of hours.
    And I resent the statement ,” the NHL season seemingly lasts forever”.

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