Toronto - UFC President Dana White has never been one to hide his feelings, so it's a safe bet we can take him at his word here.
"I won't say I never have," White said this week by way of introduction to his pre-fight video blog, "but it's been a long time since I've been this excited to go to a fight. It's going to be a crazy weekend."
Indeed, at least on paper Saturday night's UFC 129 looks like a monster. With three legitimately main event-worthy fights on the pay-per-view card and 55,000 tickets sold for the first major MMA event in Toronto, there is reason to be excited.
The MMA Hot List tracks trending topics in the world of mixed martial arts. Bet you can guess what's occupying most of our time this week ...
1. New era at welterweight? Or business as usual? Sorry to steal the catchphrase of the moment from the aforementioned UFC Prez, but few are giving Jake Shields a chance to unseat Georges St. Pierre from the 170-pound throne in this weekend's main event. GSP begs to differ, saying he expects one of the stiffest challenges of his career from the former Strikeforce middleweight champ. Still, Shields is set to go off as more than a 3-1 underdog. Who to believe?
2. Couture not waffling (much) on retirement: Randy Couture appears steadfast in his claim that his fight with Lyoto Machida will be the last of his storied career. Sort of. Couture didn't exactly make it sound definitive this week when he told Yahoo's Steve Cofield that the UFC would really have to "step up" (read: offer him a boatload of money) to get him to remain on the active roster. So, never says never, I guess.
3. UFC 129 rife with long odds: The odds makers see a lot of mismatches on Saturday night's PPV card, with Shields (+320), Couture (+280) and Mark Hominick (+325 vs. Jose Aldo) all coming in as significant underdogs. So, can any of these longshots pull the upset? History tells us at least one will, but -- as is the old gambler's dilemma -- which one? Call me crazy, but if forced to choose I'd take the oldest guy on the card: Couture for the win over the slumping Machida.
4. What will 55,000 screaming MMA fans sound like? It appears we're going to find out. I'm normally not one to titter over attendance figures, but the fanboy in me can't help but marvel just a bit at the fact that UFC is going to cram this many people into Rogers Centre on Saturday. With so many hometown fighters on the card, the atmosphere should be electric.
5. UFC requests monitors for judges: According to Nevada State Athletic Commission official-turned UFC exec Mark Ratner, the fight company has formally requested that ringside judges at next month's UFC 130 show have the benefit of watching the fight on monitors, assumedly seeing the same angles we see at home. Current NSAC director Keith Kizer has responded to the request with a definitive, "Maybe." What's the hold-up here, Kizer?
April 27, 2011: George St. Pierre talks about his preparations for Jake Shields at UFC 129, and what he'll need to do to beat him in the title fight.
6. Mayhem returns to the Octagon: Jason "Mayhem" Miller's one previous appearance in the UFC did not go well for him. Back at UFC 52, Miller got pounded from pillar to post by a pre-championship St. Pierre. It was his last career appearance at 170-pounds. After two years with Strikeforce during which the company seemed to struggle to find opponents for him, Miller re-signed with the UFC late last week and had his next opponent within 24 hours: He'll fight Aaron Simpson at UFC 132.
7. Even more fights added to UFC Live 4: I would've thought the UFC's next live show on the Versus network was already full to the brim, but that didn't stop news from trickling out this week of a couple more fights expected for the June 26 event. Matt Riddle will reportedly take on TJ Grant, while lightweight prospect Charles Oliveira gets the chance to bounce back from his loss to Jim Miller against Nik Lentz.
8. Wait, UFC Live 5 already taking shape? Believe it. The first two fights scheduled for the UFC's Aug 14 show on Versus were announced this week as well. TJ O'Brien is expected to face Cole Miller on that date, while Duane "Bang" Ludwig will fight Amir Sadollah. Guess it's never too early to start booking fights.
9. Carano's return all but confirmed: The long-awaited return of the "face of women's MMA" now appears to be a sure thing. After taking nearly two years off -- during which time she filmed the movie "Haywire" with director Steven Soderbergh -- Gina Carano is expected back in Strikeforce in July to face Sarah D'Alelio. This after Carano's original opponent, Cindy Dandois, pulled out when she discovered she was pregnant.
10. UFC set to launch new web show: "UFC Central" makes its debut this weekend with both pre and post-fight coverage of UFC 129. Streaming live on UFC.tv the online program will feature a bevy of familiar faces, including former WEC play-by-play man Todd Harris, fighter/analysts Stephan Bonnar and Kenny Florian as well as former Versus MMA host Molly Qerim. Look for the pre-fight show at 8 p.m. EST.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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Jose Aldo: Up close and personal
April 27, 2011: Jose Aldo talks about his life, his career, and preparing for fights.