With a brand-new arena and a large appetite for mixed-martial arts, Edmonton is set to host its first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event.
"I always like coming to new cities where the UFC hasn't been," said flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. "The crowd's thirsty, the fans are thirsty and I feel like we're going to give them what they want."
The UFC announced its main events Wednesday for UFC 215, set to take place on Sept. 9 at Rogers Place. Two champions, Johnson and Amanda Nunes look to defend their titles.
Johnson will try to break the UFC record of most consecutive title defences against Ray Borg, while Nunes will fight Valentina Shevchenko for the second time to defend her bantamweight title.
The fight card boasts two current champions and three former champions. There are four fighters on the card who fight out of Canada, with two of those coming from British Columbia.
For UFC North America vice-president David Shaw, the star-studded fight card is fitting for Edmonton.
"We know in Edmonton there are a lot of UFC fans," he said, adding the pay-per-view numbers in the city are always strong. "We're excited to deliver a pay-per-view card full of champions to the City of Champions."
The UFC likely pushed for a card full of prominent fighters in Edmonton after the company's last event in Alberta.
Calgary held UFC 149 in 2012, with many deeming the event as one of the worst ever in the history of the company. Nine high-profile fighters dropped out of the event due to injury, and many fans booed the event.
But Shaw said having Johnson on the card, who he believes is one of the greatest fighters in UFC history, is huge for the inaugural event in Edmonton.
"He's a brilliant and very exciting fighter," he said. But Shaw said Johnson is just one fighter on the card — it's the others that make the card exciting.
Nunes is the woman to beat in the bantamweight division. She made quick work of both Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, two of the biggest names in the UFC.
"We've got someone who has completely annihilated the women's bantam division," Shaw said.
Her opponent, Shevchenko, fought Nunes hard in their last bout, which Nunes won in a unanimous decision. This time, Nunes will be looking to finish the fight much earlier.
"Definitely I will go for a finish," she said. "I've been training with all new techniques."
Tickets go on sale to the general public Friday at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster, but a presale will be available to newsletter subscribers a day earlier.