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UFC making its Edmonton debut in September

Robbie Lawler, right, hits Carlos Condit during a welterweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 195, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Las Vegas. Lawler made a basic purse of US$500,000 for his hard-earned split-decision win over challenger Condit on Saturday at UFC 195.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Locher.
Robbie Lawler, right, hits Carlos Condit during a welterweight championship mixed martial arts bout at UFC 195, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Las Vegas. Lawler made a basic purse of US$500,000 for his hard-earned split-decision win over challenger Condit on Saturday at UFC 195.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/John Locher.

The UFC is coming to Edmonton for its first event in Alberta’s capital.

UFC 215 will be held at Rogers Place Sept. 9, which will also be the one-year anniversary of the downtown arena’s opening.

“We are thrilled to hold our first pay-per-view event in Edmonton,” UFC senior vice-president Joe Carr said.

“Fans have long been asking us to bring the Octagon back to Alberta, and we can’t wait to deliver a blockbuster event at state-of-the-art Rogers Place this September.”

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For years, UFC has held events in other major Canadian markets, but Rogers Place recently caught its eye.

“We think it will provide the best experience for the fans and the fan base, to be able to play the state-of-the-art facilities – especially with our production values and quality. It definitely did play a lot into it,” Carr said.

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Pat Reid from Edmonton’s Combative Sport Commission, which will oversee the technical aspects of the event, called it a significant boost for Edmonton.

“From a combative sports standpoint, this is the best possible event you could host,” he said.

The economic spin-off is estimated to range between $15 and $25 million. There’s an entire week of events leading up to the fights on Saturday night. From open workout sessions, to a charity day, to autographs and a Q & A session, there will be plenty of opportunity for fans to meet the athletes.

“We expect people from across Canada actually to be coming here and enjoy seeing the arena. It’s going to be an excuse for a lot of people to see Rogers Place. It’ll bring in tourists for hotels and meals, there’ll be considerable expenditure over four or five days for sure.”

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Reid added there’s little doubt the event will sell out.

“I think we’re a mixed-martial arts mad province. We’ve got lots of fighters from here that we’ve put into the UFC,” he explained.

Renee Williams with Tourism Edmonton said having an event of this calibre at Rogers Place has ripple effects across Edmonton.

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“It gives us an opportunity to show the world we’re more than just what people think – their pre-conceived ideas about Edmonton. We get to showcase our experiences, outdoor adventures, some of the incredible attractions that we have.”

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The pay-per-view event will be broadcast in more than 150 countries world-wide, potentially opening up our city to a whole new wave of tourists.

“That’s all opportunities to entice that visitation and excite people and get them thinking about a destination that maybe wasn’t on their list initially.”

A website was launched Thursday where fans can sign up to get pre-sale access to tickets and information about the event.

Who will be fighting on the card will be announced later, but the Oilers Entertainment Group said it’ll be a great night of fights.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our one year anniversary and say thank you to fans in Edmonton and across Western Canada than by bringing a championship UFC fight to Rogers Place,” Bob Nicholson, Oilers Entertainment Group CEO & vice-chair, said.

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The UFC has held 23 events in Canada in nine cities, including Calgary in 2012 which hosted UFC 149.

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