(Yes, Georges, your knees are fine, and you can still curtsy like a little princess, we get it.)
According to a new report by the Vancouver Sun, UFC 154: St. Pierre vs. Condit (November 17th, Montreal) is suffering from slow ticket sales, with large groups of seats available less than three weeks out from the show. Though the UFC still expects a capacity crowd at the Bell Centre, it’s a noticeable shift from the promotion’s four previous stops in Montreal, three of which set UFC attendance records. According to UFC Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright, fans may be spooked by the UFC’s recent injury apocalypse, which absolutely destroyed their July stop in Calgary:
“There’s been many examples over the last several fights — UFC 151 and 149 in Calgary is a good example of it — where fighters got injured and there were changes to the card. I think there are fans who are saying, ‘You know what? I’m really excited about GSP‘s return and I love the fact that we’ve got (Martin) Kampmann versus (Johny) Hendricks in the co-main event, and we’ve got a bunch of Canadians on the card. But you know what? I bought my tickets 12 weeks out for Calgary and a whole bunch of things happened. I’m going to wait until it’s a little closer’…I absolutely think that you’re seeing that. I think you’re going to see that going forward.”
Sounds like a logical hypothesis to me. I’m not going to go as far as to call UFC 154′s supporting card garbage-ass, but you have to ask yourself — if, God forbid, either GSP or Carlos Condit suffered a freak injury at the eleventh hour, is the rest of the lineup strong enough to soldier on without them? The co-main event of Kampmann vs. Hendricks is solid enough to headline a FUEL or FX card, but would be a tough sell for a pay-per-view headliner at the Bell Centre. And outside of the top two fights, the biggest name on the main card is Mark Hominick, who is riding an agonizing three-fight losing streak, and facing the inconsistent (and not-particuarly-relevant) Pablo Garza.
As Wright points out, the nightmare scenarios of UFC 151 and UFC 149 may have changed fans’ approach to ticket-buying. But while it may be true that local fans are playing the wait-and-see game before deciding to buy tickets and drive down to the venue on 11/17, fans outside of the Montreal area might not be buying at all. Think of everybody who bought non-refundable airfare to Las Vegas for UFC 151, who wound up watching Cirque du Soleil that weekend. Now that event-cancellations are within the realm of possibility, you’ll see less fans willing to roll the dice to travel to a UFC show.
Plus, Canadians might be ravenous MMA fans, but you can’t assume that all of them revere Georges St. Pierre as their personal hero. GSP headlined the UFC’s last Montreal show in December 2011, as well as their first Montreal show in April 2008. If you already spent $500 for a pair of semi-decent seats to watch GSP dominate somebody once before, you might not be as likely to do it again.
So what do you think? Can slow ticket sales be blamed indirectly on the UFC’s injury curse, or are there other factors at work here?