Fight Night: Toronto’s Debut

May 1, 2011

We managed to get tickets from scalpers* right before the main card. We ran up the ramp all the way to the nosebleeds, getting closer to the heat created by 55,000 people yelling at the top of their lungs. Immediate reactions to Toronto’s first ever UFC fight night:

Steve: This is crazy.

Ryan: Woah.

Me: I haven’t seen the Sky Dome like this since Wrestlemania 6, when the Ultimate Warrior beat Hulk Hogan for the heavyweight title.

The highlight of the night was when all six Jumbotrons took a closeup shot of Canadian Mark Hominick’s face and the crowd saw a giant baseball sized welt emerge from his head in high definition. We first reacted in disgust, then hearing how disgusted we all were, we laughed together. We did that each time they showed the bump. The cameraman zoomed in closer and continued to press our buttons.

As the fight continued, Jose Aldo continued to punch the baseball trapped inside Hominick’s forehead and Steve yelled out, “If that thing pops, it’s going to hit us all the way up here.” This gave the meatheads in the 500 section of the Sky Dome a good chuckle.

Despite the crowd’s insensitivity, we were electric when we had to be. In the fifth round of this Featherweight championship title fight, Hominick mounted the champ and began to punch him in the face. Both fighters were gassed but the crowd willed the Canadian to rise from his wounds. The electricity channeled itself into the arms of Hominick as he found the strength in his punished and beaten body to pound his opponent for the remainder of the fight. He wouldn’t allow Aldo to get up until the final bell. Despite losing the fight in a decision, Hominick fought hard for us.

The feature fight had Montreal’s George St. Pierre defend his Welterweight title against Jake Shields. This column has previously featured other champions such as Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. GSP ranks among them as a dominant force in his weight class. He rarely loses a round, let alone a fight. But there’s something distinctly Canadian about him as a fighter that separates him from other champions – he’s boring.

GSP is technically and strategically superb. He doesn’t take risks and he always wins. But his conservative style leaves his fans antsy. We want him to end the fight, rather than time to lapse and judges to make decisions. We want something definitive.

The crowd entertained itself with a few different chants while he fought. There was the one that you hear at Jays games, when there’s two strikes on a hitter, the crowd starts a slow clap that speeds up before it evaporates. Another sign of their boredom was the Olay-Olay chant usually heard at hockey games (but originally a soccer thing). Of course, being in the meathead section of Dome, a fight broke out during the GSP bout behind us. Everyone in our section was torn between watching GSP and the scuffle. Steve yelled behind us, “Can you guys just hold off for two more rounds please?”

Boring or not, GSP is our champion. Ryan noted how apologetic he is after he beats his opponent. Truly Canadian. Occasionally, he’s even sorry about his fights being boring. Once the final bell rang and GSP was declared the winner by decision, we walked out with the herd of meatheads and Steve said, “You know, even when he wins, it feels like a loss.”

*A note on scalping:

Steve and I had been tracking ticket prices since they had gone on sale. Given that they had sold out almost immediately, we presumed that scalpers had hoarded the tickets. Soon, these tickets would go on sale online in a secondary market.

Sure enough, places like Stubhub had thousands of UFC tickets for exorbitant prices. After some in-depth analysis which consisted of us basically justifying not buying those tickets at those prices, we concluded that on the night of the fight we would go with money in our pockets and find a way to get in. Again, we were right, there was a ton of tickets available for sale on the street corner.

However, while Steve and I have plenty of scalping experience, we had never scalped a ticket to a main event like this before. This was the equivalent of game 7 in the playoffs, a “must-see,” if you will. We were dealing with a sophisticated street organization.

If you had a ticket to scalp, they were on you. It was imperative that they controlled the supply, and from what we could see, they used intimidation to lowball you an offer. Scalping is their job, and the streets were their store, and chances were you being a good Canadian boy didn’t care to spend all your time making your money back.

By controlling the supply, despite having a surplus of tickets, they could control the prices. We didn’t bother negotiating. In fact, when we purchased the tickets it became obvious that one man was in control of the entire operation. Our scalper took us to him. He had papers to organize all the money and tickets floating around.

If someone controls the supply that means there is no possibility of negotiation. In fact, if you try the walk-away technique and then come back, basically telling them you were bluffing, then they can raise the price on you. They knew people came from all over Ontario and the States to watch this – and you were going to get a ticket from them, one way or another. I wanted to talk to the guy who appeared to be spearheading the entire operation but these weren’t the right circumstances.

Do you have any insights on this? Experiences? Thoughts? I’m truly interested. This secondary market is not a free market of buyers and sellers. How can they control such enormous blocks of tickets when the demand is so high? What’s the missing link? My goal is to determine how we can free this market, so we can go back to paying normal prices for events we want to go to.

–When he’s not watching grown men fight, Umar Saeed covers the endless battle between money and people on his website: