As far as major events go, it's hard to get much bigger than the UFC's debut in Toronto for the upcoming UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields" event on April 30.
55,000 fans have sold out the Rogers Centre for a gate that will shatter all previous records for mixed martial arts and equal more than $11 million. This will also be the first event in UFC history in which every fight on the card will be broadcast through various means.
On top of the five fights airing live on pay-per-view, Spike TV will broadcast two preliminary bouts while the UFC Facebook page will provide a free stream for the remaining five contests on the card.
That's a whole lotta fisticuffs.
Quantity means little without quality; however, in the case of UFC 129, there is plenty to get your blood boiling. Headlining the show is welterweight champion -- and Canadian superstar -- Georges St. Pierre, who defends his 170-pound strap against severely underrated jiu-jitsu ace Jake Shields.
If that's not enough, the event will also feature the thirtieth -- and final -- fight of legendary Hall of Famer, Randy Couture. "The Natural" will attempt to slay "The Dragon," Lyoto Machida, before riding off into the sunset.
All of the above sound off on their respective fights after the break.
Georges St. Pierre has run the gamut of opponents since winning his welterweight championship back from Matt Serra back at UFC 83 in April 2008. He's defeated five different challengers to his throne, all presenting a wide array of problems that "Rush" found the answer for ... with ease. Will that be the case against Shields?
"He's the toughest guy that I've fought. He's a specialist with submissions, but I'm gonna beat him because I'm more well-rounded. It's an honor for me to be headlining this card because it's a historical event, but don't blink. There's gonna be a lot of action. My ultimate goal in this sport is being the greatest and also being the one who made the difference and brought the sport of mixed martial arts to another level."
For his part, Shields comes into the biggest fight of his life getting less respect than Rodney Dangerfield. Despite the fact that he hasn't lost a bout since 2004, and has defeated some of the best fighters in mixed martial arts during that time, he's a heavy underdog to the champion. Not only that, he'll have to deal with St. Pierre on his home turf with a hostile crowd begging for his blood.
"They are going to be booing me like crazy. There's no way to prepare for 55,000 people booing you, but I know what's going to happen and that's beat GSP. The Canadians will go home pretty miserable, but hopefully they will at least appreciate that they saw something special in the title changing hands in a huge upset."
As they say, killers are quiet and such is the case with UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. The Brazilian was nothing less than a soft-spoken wrecking machine throughout his run with the WEC and now is finally the time to showcase his skills on the biggest stage the sport can offer. That's been his dream since day one and in order to continue living that dream, he'll have to dispose of a dangerous Canadian on his home soil.
"Being UFC champion and defending the UFC belt is a real dream come true. I literally dreamed as a kid of being a UFC champion, I wanted to grow up and be like the great Brazilian fighters I always heard about. Hominick is a great fighter; he is the number one contender. I know this is his dream too - but his dream must come to an end for my dream to go on. And I have come too far, worked too hard and want to take care of my family too much to let anyone take this UFC belt from me."
Mark Hominick has had his share of ups-and-downs throughout his career but he's worked his ass off to get where he is today. That hard work has culminated in a championship match in his home country in front of the largest audience in the history of the UFC. "The Machine" is here to win the title but he's also cognizant of how significant the event is and is strapped in, enjoying the ride while it lasts.
"I've always thought MMA is about winning and that's what drives me. I don't need something to motivate me to train or to win; the win is what drives me and the win is still what it's about. This whole event has been such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it's just been crazy and I'm really trying to enjoy the ride. I'm just trying to take it all in. This is an experience that I'll look back on and say ‘wow, that was a crazy time.'"
Randy Couture, 47, after 14 years in the sport and 29 fights, is ready to call it quits. He wants to go out on his terms, though, and he'll do so after one last dance inside the Octagon with "The Dragon," Lyoto Machida, a match-up he's long desired and was finally granted. It is fitting, perhaps, that his final fight will come in front of such a large crowd, who will surely give him the sendoff he deserves.
"I kind of want to go out on my own terms and decide when enough is enough and I think that time has come. I realize I've pushed it a lot further than anybody is going to push it. I just feel like I want to go out on my terms, and not after one or two or three losses, and have everybody else telling you should be retiring. I kind of want to do it when I want to do it. I think now is the time. It's certainly exciting to be involved in a card like this and have it be before a crowd of 55,000 or more and set a new attendance record. It's certainly fun for me to be a part of that whole thing and part of that historical event."
Lyoto Machida is in a tough spot heading into UFC 129. He's lost two consecutive fights and is in the less than desirable position of taking on one of the most popular fighters on the entire roster -- in his retirement fight, no less. However, instead of seeing this as a negative, the Brazilian Karate master is honored to be involved in such an event with one of the greatest who ever lived.
"I have so much respect for Randy Couture; I am honored to match up my skills with a legend, especially in front of the biggest crowd in UFC history. If this truly is Randy's final fight, it is truly an honor, because people always remember the final fight of a legend. Randy is known for always having a plan, for being able to figure out any style and always coming up with a battle plan. I look forward to matching my skills and tactics against his, but regardless of the result, Randy will be leaving the Octagon as a champion and legend."
When all is said on done on April 30, 2011, the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, will have played host to the biggest, and one of the most significant, events in UFC history.
Get your popcorn ready, Maniacs, because it's going to be a show.