TOM WRIGHT was sold on Winnipeg long ago, back in his days as the commissioner of the Canadian Football League.
But after watching the vibe and buzz that surrounds a Winnipeg Jets game Tuesday night, he's convinced more than ever that when the UFC rolls into town in June this town will help make the event a rousing success.
"I can hardly wait. Really, I can hardly wait," said Wright, now the UFC's director of operations for Canada, Australia and New Zealand during the first intermission of the Jets-Sabres tilt.
"This is the first time I've watched a hockey game here. And what I love about this venue is the sightlines are terrific, it's a tight arena, it's a loud arena and it's going to be full arena.
"If you've never experienced a live UFC event, you've got to go to it."
Wright and some of the UFC players -- including interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao, who was taking in his first hockey game -- are in town for today's press conference to help hype UFC 161, which will be held at the MTS Centre on June 15.
Barao's opponent, No. 4-ranked contender Eddie Wineland, will also be in town for the media show, but UFC president Dana White will now not attend due to a scheduling conflict. Also attending will be Alexis Davis of Port Colborne, Ont., who will be fighting England's Rosi Sexton in Canada's first women's bantamweight bout.
All told, seven Canadians are featured on the UFC 161 card, including Winnipeg's Roland Delorme who is facing Edwin Figueroa of Texas.
Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, with UFC Fight Club members getting first crack on Wednesday at 10 a.m. through ufcfightclub.com. UFC newsletter subscribers will be able to purchase tickets through an Internet pre-sale on Thursday.
The tickets are priced at $500, $350, $250, $150, $90 and $50 and UFC types believe the event -- just as was the case in other Canadian markets -- will be a rousing success.
UFC 161 will be one of just 13 pay-per-view events on their schedule this year, showcasing Winnipeg to the rest of the world.
"For me, as a proud Canadian, I really love being able to host our athletes and our UFC exec team to our cities," said Wright.
"I love the way our cities embrace our sport and really show off our country. It means a lot to me.
"I was here three-four weeks ago and even the rumour we were coming was on the front page.
"The excitement is going to be terrific. When I opened our (Canadian office) three years ago the mandate was to take our sport and our athletes to as many communities across the country as possible. We've been to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and this is the fifth -- Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's pretty cool."
Today's press event, which takes place at 1 p.m. at The Met, is open to the public.
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