Canadian Rory MacDonald is taking on Stephen Thompson in the main event of the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship match in Ottawa and on Monday, they were among the night’s key players in the capital to hype their June matchup.
Mixed martial arts combines different fighting styles and continues to move further into mainstream sports popularity, but safety concerns meant it wasn’t legal in Ontario until 2010.
The UFC has since drawn its then biggest-ever crowd in Toronto in 2011 and makes its Ottawa debut at the TD Place Arena Saturday, June 18.
“We’ve always wanted to come here, it’s just one of those things — when you have a certain number of events you can hold around the world, you have to have your patience and have to take your time,” said the UFC’s Tom Wright, a former commissioner of the CFL.
The two men fighting in the main event took time to hype up their matchup, with the winner likely moving on to fight for the welterweight title. The athletes also tried to sell the night to people who may be unfamiliar with the sport or skeptical about its brutality.
“I believe that boxing is more brutal than MMA. In boxing you’re doing 12 rounds and some have three knock-downs; everytime you get knocked down, that’s a concussion. Then they let you get back up, recover and keep going,” said Thompson.
“[In] MMA you get knocked down it’s pretty much over. You’re not sitting there taking that extra pounding.”
“If you haven’t been to a UFC event it’s a new experience, it’s not like a hockey game or anything like that,” said MacDonald.
“It’s a very raw thing which hits the human instincts to the core. It’s not like putting a puck in the net in the playoffs in the last minute. It’s a different vibe. It’s got electricity to it, emotion.”
Tickets for the nine-fight night are on sale on Friday at 10 a.m. Wright said he expects the arena will be full.