For the four men headlining UFC 152 in Toronto later this month, Tuesday’s media conference call was the last chance before fight week to get in any verbal jabs they wanted to throw at their opponents.
Both challengers in the inaugural UFC Flyweight title fight between Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson were on the call answering questions from various media outlets, as well as UFC Light Heavyweight Jon Jones and title challenger Vitor Belfort who meet in the main event of the Sept. 22 show at the Air Canada Centre.
The 35-year-old veteran Belfort, who is moving up a weight class on short notice to meet Jones and considered a long shot to win, has been in six UFC main events since debuting in the octagon over 15 years ago and is not at all fazed by his underdog status.
“Nothing affects my mind — I’m just focused on the process. I’m not worried about what people say or think, I don’t really care, it doesn’t make any sense for me to,” Belfort said while answering a question from the Observer.
“I’m going there with the mentality to do my best and that’s the only thing I can do. And that’s what everyone should do, do your best — that’s it.”
He’ll have to if he wants to take out Jones, the 25-year-old emerging face of the UFC whose defended his title three times, all over former champions, since winning the belt last March.
Jones has been dominant since entering the UFC in 2008 going 10-1 (disqualification loss) but failed to record a stoppage victory in his last fight in April against former training partner Rashad Evans, the first time in over three years he’s failed to finish his opposition.
“With Rashad I think a part of me saw a guy that I had been sparring against and, I don’t know, I feel as if some of those elbows were malicious but my killer instinct was just not there for some reason.
“I was more focused on, and I hate to say this, just winning that fight,” Jones said. “Vitor is someone I really don’t know and I think I’ll have a better time of going out there and feeling like I’m at war.”
It won’t be the only one of the evening as Benavidez and Johnson battle to go down in history as the company’s first 125 pound champion.
Title opportunities have been in abundance around Benavidez’s camp Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif. Teammates Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber have both come up short in championship bouts this year, a trend “Joe B-Wan Kenobi” will be looking to end.
“That’s kind of the thing lacking from our team, I mean you could look at us and say ‘that’s one of the best teams in the world’ or ‘that’s one of the best teams of lightweight guys’ but the one thing missing is a UFC title, so that’s going to mean a lot for me to bring it to the team,” the 28-year-old said.
“I’m a product of them and how they’ve pushed me and how they’ve taught me, everything, so it’s going to mean a lot for me to bring the belt back to Alpha Male, for sure.”
UFC 152 marks the third time the promotion has put on an event in Toronto.
After setting a North American attendance record of over 50,000 at the Rogers Centre in their Ontario debut last April the UFC returned in December to the Air Canada Centre with an announced attendance of 18,303 and total gate of just under $4-million.
UFC Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright was also on the call and commented on how the recently added main event between Jones and Belfort has affected ticket sales.
“Ticket sales picked up significantly after [Jones vs. Belfort] was announced,” said the former CFL Commissioner. “I can tell you we still have some tickets left in all price points, but they’re moving really quite quickly,”