When the UFC went on sale with tickets for UFC 129 and sold out in several minutes, then did the same thing again when they released more tickets, people knew the Toronto debut was going to be big. We just didn’t know how big. That, Randy Couture’s final fight and Nick Diaz’s love affair with boxing headlined the big stories in April.
April 2011 – 55,000 Of My Rowdy Friends
Finally cleared to run a major show in Toronto, Canada, the UFC achieved another major milestone with a UFC/North American record crowd of 55,000 people in Rogers Centre to watch UFC 129 and their countryman Georges St. Pierre in the main event.
Action aside, the shots like you see above are pretty incredible. Dana White and company insisted on a top-flight fan experience inside the venue and by all accounts, their goals were achieved. The weekend featured a Fan Expo and everything was treated like a major happening. It was a nice dry run for the UFC if/when they run large-scale events in Dallas, TX, or outdoors in Brazil; a massive business achievement where the fighting wasn’t too bad either.
St. Pierre looked human in a unanimous decision win over Jake Shields where the champion suffered a left eye injury and fought the majority of the bout with impaired vision. Shields couldn’t take advantage, however, and kept the fight standing. It would turn out to be the only fight of the year for St. Pierre, while Shields is still looking for his first impressive outing in the Octagon.
Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo made his UFC debut and fended off a tough challenge by local favorite Mark Hominick, while Lyoto Machida’s crane kick of doom knocked out Randy Couture, powered by training with Steven Seagal (again, seriously!). Couture said before the event that he was retiring and he held to his word.
Chael Sonnen’s issues continued as claims he had made about conversations with Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission were disputed by Kizer. He was attempting to be licensed by the NSAC to coach on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter but that was severely in doubt due to a myriad of issues. He was officially sentenced to probation and a fine in his federal money laundering case, but his NSAC hearing was postponed.
Cesar Gracie Jiu Jitsu reigned supreme as Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz beat Paul Daley in a great round of action while Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez dominated Tatsuya Kawajiri at a Strikeforce event. That only fueled the passion for those that wanted to see Diaz vs. St. Pierre and Melendez vs. UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar as the event came a month after the Zuffa purchase. At the time, Scott Coker was suggesting crossover fights could happen within 8-12 months and pay-per-view was being discussed for the summer. Seems like an eternity ago, no?
None of it stopped Diaz from threatening to go to boxing.
The rest of the month after the jump…
Other Stuff That Happened
Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones pulled out of his August title defense against Rashad Evans due to a hand injury and Phil Davis was tabbed to take Jones’ place. The injury originally was going to require surgery and then didn’t, which was a cause of much discussion…Anderson Silva celebrated his birthday, got a booking against Yushin Okami at UFC Rio and said he would never fight Jones.
Bellator got on the map with Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez defeating Pat Curran in a tough unanimous decision and Welterweight Champion Ben Askren having an easy time in a non-title win over Nick Thompson…Dana White defended the low TUF 13 ratings despite having Brock Lesnar on the show….the Strikeforce purchase ended the Dave Batista talks but Royce Gracie was still angling to get on the UFC Rio event.
Former NHL fighter Donald Brashear announced his MMA debut…Jason “Mayhem” Miller became the first big name from Strikeforce to sign with the UFC post-Zuffa sale…Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko talks heated up…Thiago Silva was suspended for one year due to a failed drug test…Diego Sanchez vs. Matt Hughes was booked for the fall.
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