By Ian Hough

The Ulitimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has truly emerged from its underground beginnings, as evidenced by the fact that when tickets for April’s UFC Canadian debut went on presale to UFC Fight Club members recently – a fan club for the mixed martial arts association – they sold half the tickets in just one day. Bearing in mind the ticket office wasn’t open to the general public at that point, it is a phenomenal amount.

“More than 13,000 tickets were sold for UFC 83 in the first 24 hours of the UFC Fight Club presale. I’m excited to say that this event is almost a complete sellout in just one day – today we expect the event to sell out completely. We are so excited to bring this fight to Canada, and what better main event is there than Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre 2?” UFC President Dana White said in a prepared statement.

UFC Fight Club members make annual payments of about $75 in order to gain access to tickets and other assorted bonuses, and they took serious advantage of its introduction into Canada. Montreal’s Georges St. Pierre is fighting in the main event, which probably had something to do with the high ticket sales – and UFC forecasts that greater than 20,000 tickets in total will be sold for the April 19 meet at Montreal’s Bell Centre. This will beat the current UFC attendance record of 19,049 set in Columbus, Ohio for UFC 68. The main event at UFC 83: Serra vs. St. Pierre 2 sees St. Pierre fight Matt Serra for the second time, with St. Pierre looking to snatch back the title Serra won with a first-round TKO in April ‘07. Serra’s absence through back injury was possibly the reason St. Pierre won the interim crown in December ’07 at UFC 79, but the victory has emboldened St. Pierre and the masses of Canadian fans eager to buy UFC 83 tickets.

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Several Canadian fighters are on the card, including Kalib Starnes of Surrey, British Columbia, Mark Bocek of Woodbridge, Ontario, Jason “The Athlete” MacDonald of Red Deer, Alberta, and Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout of London, Ontario. Other Quebecois participating are Jonathan Goulet of Victoriaville, Quebec, and Patrick “The Predator” Cote of Quebec City.

“I’m pretty confident it will be a huge success,” St. Pierre said in a statement. “And to fight for a title at home, I’m the happiest man on earth.” Before this Canadian bonanza, UFC 82 will be held in Columbus at the Nationwide Arena, site of the present attendance record.

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