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Winnipeg 'perfect' for UFC, top official says

Brazilians in rematch on June MTS Centre card

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Arm bars, leg locks and rear chokeholds will be executed by the best in the business inside the Octagon at the MTS Centre on June 15.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion company, officially announced it will make its Winnipeg debut when it stages UFC 161.

Tickets will go on sale to the public on April 12 but prices have not been announced yet. While the UFC 161 fight card is expected to be announced in coming weeks, UFC president Dana White told USA Today Sports the main bout will be a rematch between Brazilian veterans Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans could take on ex-Strikeforce titleholder Dan Henderson, who is waiting for medical clearance. MMAjunkie.com reported a welterweight bout between Jake Shields and Tyron Woodley is also expected.

"Winnipeg is the perfect, logical next step in our commitment as an organization to build the sport of mixed martial arts and to introduce our athletes and our events to as many communities across Canada as possible," Tom Wright, UFC director of operations for Canada, said at Tuesday's press conference in Winnipeg.

Wright, the Canadian Football League commissioner from 2002-06, said Winnipeg will be the fifth Canadian city to host a UFC show. There have been previous UFC events in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. UFC 158 will be held in Montreal on March 16.

"Winnipeg represents the longitudinal centre of North America, it is the gateway to the West and is the centre of Canada," Wright said. "To be able to come here in the summer of 2013 in our 20th anniversary year and bring our sport and our athletes to the centre of North America is something that we've longed to be able to do, and now we have that opportunity."

Depending on what the UFC decides for the undercard, there could be opportunities for local MMA fighters. A local source told the Free Press that "nothing is confirmed yet, but all signs point to yes" that Roland "Stunning" Delorme of Winnipeg will fight on his sport's biggest stage in his hometown. Delorme, 29, is a bantamweight who competed on the Ultimate Fighter in 2011. He's already fought in three of his five UFC contract fights. Other local names for consideration could include Joe Doerksen, a former UFC fighter, and Curtis Brigham, who will fight at AFC 16 Uprising on March 23 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. UFC fighter Krzysztof Soszynski of Winnipeg told the Free Press he won't be on the card "due to health reasons."

Giuseppe DeNatale, who promoted seven Canadian Fighting Championship events in Winnipeg from 2009-11, said having UFC 161 in Winnipeg is a big step locally for the sport.

"It's great for the city and great for the sport of mixed martial arts. Everyone locally has been waiting for the UFC to come here for many years," said DeNatale, a former fighter who is the owner and head instructor at the Canadian Fighting Centre. "It's going to expose more people to the sport of MMA. It puts Winnipeg on the map, especially with the pay-per-view."

UFC 161 will be shown on pay-per-view for $49.99 (standard definition) or $59.99 (high definition).

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2013 A6

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