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Rogers Centre Bracing for Biggest Crowd in UFC History

TORONTO -- Just how big is UFC 129 going to be? Apparently, 55,000 tickets weren't quite enough. Early Thursday afternoon, the UFC put a few more seats on sale after workers finished production setup and carved out some extra space. There will be around 20 video screens, including an extra, center-hung 100-foot screen to complement the stadium's existing 110-foot video board in centerfield. The audio setup will have more than 80 points, twice as many as some rock concerts the stadium has hosted.

For months, UFC president Dana White has been looking at mock-up photos and models of the final project, but he finally got his first look in person this week. White, who once said he never wanted to do a stadium show unless the promotion could replicate "the UFC experience," came out thrilled.

"I'm telling you right now, you're going to be blown away," he said.

Spearheading the project was UFC's director of Canadian operations Tom Wright, a former Canadian Football League commissioner who joined the UFC in May 2010. Wright's work started months ago, and in early April, Wright spent the day with Toronto Blue Jays' officials as the team went through its sold-out opening day in an effort to observe the massive complex in action and make adjustments as needed. Wright said that all along, it's been the promotion's goal to make the experience great whether you're sitting on the main floor or the 500 level.

To that end, hundreds have been working lengthy shifts since the wee hours of Monday morning to convert the baseball stadium to a fight mecca. On fight night, 1400 workers will be serving the mass of humanity that fills its seats.

Over the years, several boxing promoters have voiced an interest in running an event at Rogers Centre -- formerly called SkyDome -- but none ever happened. White was convinced MMA could work in a stadium environment if the setting was right and the main event was strong. He felt UFC hit on both with Toronto as the host, and Georges St. Pierre main eventing in the show.

"There's this real sense of excitement of doing something for the first time for the scale of what we're doing and the level of quality," Wright said. "It's cutting edge. When you see the stuff we did on the floor and hanging from the roof of the Rogers Centre, it's cutting edge."

The full setup won't be revealed until fight night, however. There is still work to be done, and Friday's weigh-ins, which often take place at the host arena, will emanate from the site of the Fan Expo. The grand unveiling should be some site to behold.

Just over a year ago, White came back from a Manny Pacquiao fight at Cowboys Stadium with thoughts of a stadium show dancing in his head. While he still hopes to run that facility in the future, his recent site visit to the UFC 129 host venue left him feeling that he's about to one-up the stunning Texas venue.

"Cowboys Stadium was impressive, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say we're going to beat Cowboys Stadium," he said. "Let's put it this way: Cowboys Stadium was designed for football, and then to hold other events. This [setup] was designed just for us."

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