UFC Promises To Make Toronto Experience Something Special

By The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Expect new screens, floor seats on risers and an Octagon on the 55-yard-line when the UFC comes to Rogers Centre on April 30 for UFC 129.

And a Jake Shields win, according to the challenger who is taking on Georges St-Pierre for the Montreal MMA star’s welterweight title. Shields (26-4-1) has won 15 straight — “Looking to take my 16th” — but is a heavy underdog against St-Pierre (21-2).

Some bookies have the champion listed as a 6-1 favourite.

“I think maybe I don’t get the respect I deserve,” Shields said Friday on a visit to the Rogers Centre. “People don’t realize the winning streak I’m on. Just because it wasn’t in the UFC, they don’t give it the same credit. “But if you look back through mine and GSP’s records, I think the odds should be pretty even in this fight. But I have no problem being the underdog. It takes pressure off me and I’m going to bring the fight to him.”

The stadium will be in football mode for the UFC show, according to Tom Wright, the UFC’s director of Canadian operations.

“We spent months trying to figure this one out, because we’ve never configured anything this big,” Wright said in an interview in his temporary office at the domed stadium.

Fans will see some new-look staging from the UFC.
As with CFL games at the stadium, some of the 100 level seats will not be used.

Some floor seats will be on risers, to provide a better view. Wright says seats at the north and south ends will rise to the front of the stadium’s 200 level. Floor seats on the east and west sides will be also go up, but not as high.

The floor alone will accommodate 8,000 to 10,000 and there will be people seating in the upper 500 level, Wright said.

At the north and south end of the stadium on the floor, there will be fan zones to buy merchandise, food and drinks between bouts. The UFC also hopes to use the stadium’s large mezzanine level to enhance the fan experience.

Some 42,000 tickets will be made available, when they go on sale Feb. 10 and 11 to pre-sales and Feb. 12 to the general public.

Shields, for one, is already impressed.

“This arena’s amazing,” the California native said from the press box. “I’m excited to be fighting in it.

“It’s crazy,” he added. “I never fought in an arena this big.”

UFC president Dana White has talked of make sure that the live spectacle will be preserved, even in such a big setting.

Wright says the Jumbrotron on the north side of the venue will be replicated at the south end. The UFC is also bringing in something akin to a hockey stadium scoreboard — Wright calls it “a centre-hung unit” that will hang from the ceiling above the cage with four big screens.

The unit will be as big, if not bigger, as the one that hangs above centre ice in Montreal’s Bell Centre, Wright said.

Fans in the top level of the stadium will get their own screens.

The UFC has already made three site visits. “And we’ll have a bunch more,” said Wright.

“You have one chance to make a first impression,” he noted. “So that what this is all about.”

The UFC production crew will likely start work the Wednesday before the fight, rather than the normal Friday.

The Toronto weigh-in the Friday of the show will not be at the stadium, Wright said. More likely it will be linked to the Fan Expo at the Direct Energy Centre on the CNE grounds.

 

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