For the second time in as many events, the Canadians represented for the UFC as they set a new North American MMA attendance record of 21,451 at UFC 97 last night in Montreal. In these tough economic times, the card was able to garner the organization a ridiculous $4.9 million gate.
The early numbers were announced by UFC president Dana White at the post-fight presser, however have not been confirmed by the Quebec Athletic Commission. If all holds true, the UFC’s follow-up event only fell 61 heads short of matching the sick attendance numbers that UFC 83 generated in April of 2008.
What makes last night’s show even more impressive than the UFC’s debut is that Canada’s most famous athlete, Georges St-Pierre, took on then-UFC champ Matt Serra in a title unification bout the first time around.
GSP treated his countrymen to one of the most dominating title fights in Octagon history, as he TKO’d Serra with a barrage of vicious knees to the body.
Although a larger audience gathered to watch UFC 97, it wasn’t able to match UFC 83‘s live gate of $5.1 million. Regardless, the Canadians have spoken once again and the UFC is listening loud and clear. Our neighbors to the north now can stake claim to hosting two of the UFC’s top five MMA events. Both events were held at the Bell Centre.
The top five UFC and North American MMA gates now include:
1. UFC 66 (Liddell vs. Ortiz II): $5,397,300 gate (12,191 attendance)
2. UFC 83 (St. Pierre vs. Serra II): $5,100,000 gate (21,390 attendance)
3. UFC 79 (St. Pierre vs. Hughes): $4,994,050 gate (9,704 attendance)
4. UFC 97 (Silva vs. Leites): $4,900,000 gate (21,451 attendance)*
5. UFC 91 (Couture vs. Lesnar): $4,815,675 gate (13,224 attendance)
* – Not verified by the Quebec Athletic Commission
UFC 97 featured UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva’s successful title defense against Thales Leites. In addition, it turns out that we witnessed what was likely former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell’s last professional scrap.