The population of the city of Toronto mixes English with another hundred or so languages and dialects (often in the same phrase) and has little old men who stash cannabis at home in large white tubs and harbor a touching craving for anything to do with sports stars.
The Maple Leafs – the second winningest hockey team in the nation – has kept its fans joyless since 1967. The Blue Jays haven’t won a World Series since 1993. The Raptors, in basketball? Best change the subject. Toronto’s fans try to ignore it, forcing a laugh as though what really matters is just the fact they compete, but their teams have become punching bags. Saturday at UFC 129, though, they plan to go to town.
The biggest star of the night, Georges Saint-Pierre, is from Montreal, Quebec, but got his start in Jiu-Jitsu in Toronto, so he’s a hometown boy. A loss from the Canada’s greatest MMA fighter of all times (sorry, Gary Goodridge fans) would be too much even for Raptors fans – or for laid-back old guys with medical marijuana prescriptions (it being legal around these parts). But there’s still a chance it may happen.
“A lot of fighters are dangerous, but their not clever. Jake is,” said GSP in praise of his opponent in recent days.
“When you roll with Jake on the ground you know he’s about to do something, but there isn’t much you can do. It will be a long day for Saint-Pierre,” warned Jake’s training partner at Cesar Gracie academy Daniel Roberts in an interview on MMAWeekly.com. Besides his usual crew, Shields called on Chael Sonnen and Matt Lindland as sparring partners.
Talk around town is about how all the fighters are in the city, with exception to Brazilians Lyoto Machida and José Aldo, who arrive tomorrow. The Hilton is packed with fair-faced beauties after photos with GSP and the rest of the roster. Five fights will be broadcast over Facebook, to the joy of those left without tickets. And the newspapers have now begun pumping out thorough articles – today’s features the inspiring story of Jason MacDonald, who is coming off a nasty elbow injury and even pondered quitting.
In a nutshell, things here are heating up.
Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Georges St-Pierre vs. Jake Shields
José Aldo vs. Mark Hominick
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Jason Brilz
Lyoto Machida vs. Randy Couture
Mark Bocek vs. Ben Henderson
Preliminary card on Spike TV
Nate Diaz vs. Rory MacDonald
Sean Pierson vs. Brian Foster
Preliminary card (informal Canada vs. USA)
Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza
Claude Patrick vs. Daniel Roberts
Ivan Menjivar vs. Charlie Valencia
Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen
John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson