Ultimate fighting event coming to Toronto on April 30
The Ultimate Fighting Championship plans to showcase its entry into the Ontario market with a blowout mixed martial arts event at the Rogers Centre this spring, UFC president Dana White announced on Tuesday.
"People have been dying for this thing in Toronto and now we're finally coming," he said. "We expect it to be massive."
White announced the April 30 event during a news conference at the Air Canada Centre, one day after the province announced that it would start booking MMA events in the New Year.
Promoters can start submitting event applications on Jan. 1. But White didn't wait that long. He told reporters that UFC event 131 would be held at Toronto's Rogers Centre little more than four months from now.
"I can assure you that our application will be on that table (Jan. 1) and I like our chances to be accepted," said Tom Wright, the UFC's director of Canadian operations.
There will be a companion fan expo at the Direct Energy Centre on April 29 and 30.
White said it will be the most memorable event of his career. He said he expects it to be the league's most attended fight.
“The live event means everything to me," White said. "We'll deliver. We will deliver and make sure that it has the same energy -- you're not watching two little ants fight on a matchbox. I'll make sure we deliver. I promise."
The Rogers Centre can hold a crowd of about 50,000 people.
However, Wrestlemania X8 attracted more than 68,000 in the spring of 2002.
Ontario's government is expected to get a five-per-cent cut of the UFC event's gate receipts.
Provincial estimates have suggested a major MMA event could attract up to 30,000 fans and generate up to $6 million in economic stimulus.
The government has estimated 10 to 15 matches will be held in the province every year, including one so-called mega-match.
UFC is mixed martial arts' largest and most successful entity and has been chomping at the bit to break into the Ontario market.
White has referred to Ontario as the "mecca" of mixed martial arts, adding that Canada already accounts for 17 per cent of UFC's overall business. It has been estimated that 42 per cent of tickets sold for a 2007 match in Columbus, Ohio went to Ontario fans.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, who previously dismissed legalizing the form of prize fighting in Ontario, announced in August that fights would be allowed.
"We have heard from fans across the province and it's clear that MMA is a popular sport Ontarians are following," John Gerretsen, Ontario's minister of consumer services, said on Monday.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Michelle Dube and files from The Canadian Press