A lot of money is riding on this weekend's Ultimate Fighting Championship event in Winnipeg, which is poised to be the biggest event to be held at the MTS Centre.
UFC 161, slated to take place on Saturday night, will be the first time the popular mixed martial arts competition comes to the Manitoba capital. The event at the MTS Centre is already sold out.
In addition to being the biggest gate event, it will also be the largest pay-per-view event ever to come out of Manitoba.
True North vice-president Kevin Donnelly, who is the MTS Centre's general manager, said UFC 161 will be shown on pay-per-view to 140 countries in 28 languages, giving Winnipeg the biggest international exposure of any sports event to date.
Donnelly said he has been trying to bring UFC to Winnipeg for eight years, pointing to pent-up public demand for this type of event.
"The proof is in the pudding: We've sold out the building, the gross is huge, the average ticket price is huge," he told CBC News on Wednesday afternoon.
"People come from all across North America. There is a real legion of diehard fans, so I knew it was good for Winnipeg — good for the economy locally, good for the hotel business, all the restaurants will do well."
Donnelly would not divulge how much money is expected to be generated from UFC 161.
Fighters work out at downtown mall
UFC fans in the city got a taste of what's to come on Wednesday, when several fighters took to a ring in Edmonton Court at Portage Place for workout sessions.
Dozens of fans watched ringside and on the upper levels of the downtown mall.
Canadian Sam Stout, who has been a mixed martial arts fighter for 10 years — 7½ of those with UFC — joked with media that he's a veteran and known "for putting on exciting fights."
Stout, from London, Ont., said he has family and friends coming to the bout and is excited about seeing inside MTS Centre, noting he's never been there before.
"I've heard about the Jets crowd. I know they're pretty wild so I'm hoping they're just as amped up for UFC," he said.
Stout is fighting in the lightweight bout in the preliminary round.
"I love fighting in all these Canadian cards. I get on as many of them as I can, you know, to be on the first one is kind of a landmark for Manitoba. It's pretty cool and another landmark for Canada," he said.