UFC set to return to Vancouver in August

Jun 15 2016, 8:12 pm

Hot on the heels of the news that Brock Lesnar is our new Canadian overlord, comes the news that the UFC is ready to visit Vancouver again!

“We are dedicated to bringing fights coast-to-coast across Canada,” UFC Executive Vice-President and General Manager for Canada, Australia and New Zealand Tom Wright said in a media release. “Vancouver has played host to tremendous events in the past and we look forward to delivering another spectacular night of fights this August.”

Set to go down on August 27th at Rogers Arena, UFC FOX 21, marks the return to a BC market that hasn’t exactly been a hotbed for the UFC, both in terms of crowd attendance or high profile fights.

“We’re excited to host the UFC in their fourth appearance here at Rogers Arena,” said Jeff Stipec, Chief Operating Officer, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. “Rogers Arena is a premier sports and entertainment venue committed to providing a world class guest experience. We share British Columbians’ passion for sports and are pleased to host the UFC live once again.”

So far the biggest fight on the FOX 21 card is Anthony Pettis, who makes his debut in the featherweight division, taking on Charles Oliveira. It is definitely an intriguing matchup for avid MMA fans, but might be missing the sizzle needed to draw in the casual viewer. The lack of sizzle seems to be a UFC Vancouver tradition, and it’s become kind of a debate of ‘is Vancouver just not a viable UFC market’ versus ‘is UFC not giving the city a reason to come out and watch a show?’

Historically, the UFC has held three events in Vancouver:

UFC 115 (2010)

  • Headlined by Chuck Liddell vs Rich Franklin. While a good matchup on paper, both men were past their primes by then, and there was nothing really at stake on the line besides trying to stay conscious.
  • Pat Barry vs Mirko Cro Cop was another “name” fight for hardcore MMA fans (PRIDE NEVER DIES), but again, featured guys that weren’t very relevant at this point in their careers when it came to title aspirations.
  • Rory MacDonald’s fight was by far the most high profile of the night, and was the best on the card. It helped that MacDonald is a local boy, which is what probably pushed the most tickets.

UFC 131 (2011)

  • Originally it was supposed to feature Brock Lesnar, which would have been one of the biggest high profile fights you could have gotten, but diverticulitis took Lesnar off the card. This gave Vancouver Shane Carwin vs Junior Dos Santos, which was a decent fight, but again, nothing that would make casual fans scream “I NEED TO SEE THIS.” The fight itself was a one sided affair which saw Dos Santos punch Shane Carwin for 15 minutes while Carwin’s body wept for oxygen, ending in a decision win for Junior.
  • Kenny Florian was in full elite gate keeper mode as he took a decision win over Diego Nunes.
  • Maia vs Munoz was again, more of an MMA aficionado matchup (or a matchup your buddy who does BJJ would try and explain to you as being amazing), and also resulted in a decision win. Seven of the twelve fights went to a decision on the card.

UFC 174 (2014)

  • It was three years until the UFC decided to try Vancouver again, and this time it was with their weakest card yet. It was headlined by Demetrious Johnson, the ultimate guy for the “He’s so good at fighting, real fight fans can see how good he is” online arguments. Johnson, who is without a doubt extremely good at his job, struggles to bring in viewers however, and most people ended up walking out of his fight against Ali Bagautinov. The lasting memory of this card is probably people leaving in droves as Johnson did his thing in the octagon.
  • Rory MacDonald vs Tyron Woodley should have gone on last, as Rory was the main reason for most people to attend the show. Although the fight went to a decision, the emotional investment in Rory was noticeably visible from the crowd, and ended up being a pretty decent fight.
  • Arlovski vs Schaub fought in what had to be the worst fight of the night. If you liked tepid offense, fatigue, and two guys playing it safe, this was the fight for you. Again, seven of the eleven fights went to a decision on a card that was decidedly below average.

There is a noticeable downward trend here for UFC events, as it appears the UFC sees less and less of a return on their investment in Canada to the point where Vancouver isn’t even getting a pay-per-view, instead it’s getting a UFC FOX event. And again, the argument can be made that it’s hard to tell whether it’s truly fan disinterest in this market versus poor fight cards (low profile matchups or the fights themselves ended up being boring) and bad luck (missing out on Lesnar was a huge loss). It feels like they might only bring a pay-per-view back to Vancouver if they have a viable Canadian star (get it done Rory!).

More matches will be announced, and plenty of cards that don’t have that flash behind it can end up being quite good. Some cards that have everything going for them with big names can end up being poor for that matter. So the card could still end up being a ton of fun despite the chance of no big names. It also might have lower prices due to the fact it’s not a PPV event.

So should you want to check out the UFC FOX 21 event, tickets go on sale July 15th on Ticketmaster.

Wyatt ArndtWyatt Arndt

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