Outside the eight-sided ring on September 24 at the Pepsi Center, between $12 and $18 million will be generated by the Ultimate Fighting Championship when it returns to Denver.
"It's cool to be back here where the first one started," said UFC President Dana White at a press conference on Tuesday morning at the former Braun's Bar and Grill space on Auraria Parkway. "We've come back around here a couple times. This is our first real big event in Denver. We came out here and tested the waters a couple times, and we knew we wanted to bring a big event here."
Inside that ring will be 24-year-old Jon Jones, who celebrated his birthday Monday, against 33-year-old Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Jones has been heralded by both MMA bloggers and the mainstream press as the future of the sport, but Jackson -- best known as Mr. T in the A-Team reboot -- didn't let the obvious attention on Jones take away from some of the best lines of press conference.
"Who you calling old, dog? I'm only 33, man. You act like I'm Randy Couture's decrepit old ass. If I have to represent the old school, I guess I have to represent them. Hell, if you all put me in that category, I was younger than him when I started. I guess I'm old-school. But with old-school comes a lot of experience.
"He's the youngest champion, but he's the least-experienced champion in UFC history."
Jones said "fighting Rampage is an honor. He's been around a long time, and I've been watching him since I was in high school and college. I respect his character and what he does for our sport."
A bit predictably, there were a few locker-room jokes that sent the mostly male audience (including dozens of fans who who crowded around the stage) into fits. Jackson spit water into the air and ran off-stage after hearing White say, "We didn't even come yet!" to a questioner about the UFC's next trip to Denver. Sex jokes are never not funny at 10:45 a.m. Characterizing Jackson as "loose" would be an understatement -- he came with material that kept White, the audience and his opponent Jones smiling throughout the hour-long affair. Meanwhile, Jones was more reserved, as has been his style outside the ring.
Random Notes: • Neither athlete said the altitude should be a factor during the fight. Jones says he's trained in New Mexico and is focusing on his cardio work, while Jackson says his longtime training team, led by Lance Gibson of Wolfslair, is moving to Colorado to train for the fight, adding that he's "coming back Monday" to begin.
• Jones said he expects to move up to the heavyweight class in the next few years, explaining that he's working with a nutritionist now and expects to be a heavyweight fighter by age 26 or 27.
• As is the case with other UFC press conferences, White took questions from fans for a good twenty minutes after the media had exhausted its questions. It's something you just won't see at other professional sports events. Can you imagine Roger Goodell up there, fielding questions about upcoming games from fans? Well done.
• White said he didn't expect the NFL lockout -- or other strike or lockouts -- in the big sports leagues to add to UFC's popularity. "We're don't compete for the same dollar," White said, especially since UFC is primarily a pay-per-view game.
• DVD sales of UFC fights have dropped off significantly in the past few years, so don't expect to see much more of them for sale soon, White said.
• Tickets go on sale for UFC 135 at 10 a.m. (Mountain Time) Friday, July 22, and are $400, $300, $225, $150, $100, $75 and $50 a seat. Tickets are available at the Pepsi Center box office or at Ticket Horse.
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