Dana White more than pleased with Canadian content at UFC 186
John Makdessi reacts after his fight against Shane Campbell during their catchweight bout during UFC 186 at Bell Centre on April 25, 2015. (Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports)
Saturday night’s UFC 186 card was always going to sink or swim based on the Canadians on the card.
Carrying a major UFC pay-per-view was a big step-up for many of the Canucks who populated the Montreal fight-night.
And, well, they certainly proved they can handle the pressure.
Eight Canadians ended up in the winner’s circle. Chad Laprise shared fight of the night honours with American Bryan Barberena and Oiliver Aubin-Mercier, plus John Makdessi and Alexis Davis both picked up noteworthy finishes.
While the Canadian presence wasn’t enough to push ticket sales through the roof -- only 10,154 made their way to the Bell Centre -- their performances suggest there are a few Canuck fighters who could be revenue-drivers for the company down the road.
“I think the proof is in the pudding,” said Laprise, who earned a unanimous decision in his fight against Barbarena but was relentless in his attacks. “All of us came out and fought hard.
“Earlier this week some people were dogging this card and I said I was going to come out and bring fireworks, and I delivered.”
There’s likely still some work to do before most of the Canadians who fought Saturday night are able to crack their respective divisions’ top 10, but UFC 186 was still a step in the right direction.
Guys like Laprise and Makdessi face uphill battles in the stacked lightweight division, but in an organization where impressing the boss counts for a lot, they made an impression.
“Big things,” UFC president Dana White said when asked about what Laprise’s future held. “He fought a big, strong, tough kid. It was the perfect fight at the perfect time in these young guys’ careers. Everybody on this card fought their a-- off, it was unbelievable.
“Canadians kicked some a-- tonight …. Canadians came out, they shined. There were absolutely, positively future stars who fought tonight.”
That’s clearly good news for the UFC’s future plans in Canada, as there has been something of a void in Canadian star power in the time since Georges St. Pierre walked away from mixed martial arts.
Rory MacDonald is a welterweight title contender, but doesn’t have the same natural charisma that saw GSP help the sport explode in popularity.
As for the organization’s strategy in Canada moving forward, White insisted he was pleased with the UFC’s foothold in the country despite disappointing crowds in Montreal this year and in Vancouver for last year’s UFC 174.
“We’re going to do the same thing we’ve been doing,” White said. “We come here and, like I said, the main event falls off (the card), and (Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson) is in, he’s out, he’s in, it’s been a real crazy promotion.
“What are we going to do different in Canada? Not a damn thing. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last couple years.”
DJ WINS ‘EM OVER
In general, the crowd at the Bell Centre was loud and supportive on Saturday night.
It came under a lot of criticism online, though, for its treatment of flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.
Debatably the most technically-sound fighter in mixed martial arts, Johnson’s style didn’t seem to resonate with some in the Montreal-crowd. There were scattered boos and walk-outs, and many fighters were openly angry online at the disrespect being afforded the champion.
Then, he won them over. Johnson finished the fight with only one second left on the clock in the fifth and final round to earn his seventh straight championship win and the latest finish in UFC history -- as well as a sizable roar from the crowd.
“Yeah, my record got broken not too long ago for the latest finish so I waited until the last second, I figured nobody’d be able to beat that,” Johnson said. “That’s what I was focused on.”