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UFC 291 ends in spectacular fashion, sells out Delta Center for 2nd straight year

Posted at 2:52 PM, Jul 30, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of mixed martial arts fans packed the Delta Center Saturday evening for UFC 291. The sold-out event, headlined by a rematch between lightweights Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje for the ceremonial “BMF Title,” marked the second time the UFC returned to Utah within 12 months. The last UFC event in Utah was UFC 278, which also sold out the then-Vivint Arena in August 2022.

The rematch ended in spectacular fashion, with Gaethje knocking out Poirier with a kick to the head in the second round. Only 2 of the total 11 fights on Saturday's card went to the judge's scorecards.

Ahead of the fight, fans could check out a free, immersive, all-access experience hosted by the UFC.

"I just love watching,” said Maddax Williamson, an 8-year-old UFC fan from Salt Lake City. “It's great to just meet someone like Brendan Allen,” he added.

Williamson was one of more than a thousand people who took part in all the fan the UFC fan experience had to offer Saturday afternoon.

Mike Sherlock made the trek from Sacramento, California with his cousin to see UFC 291 up close. He spent around $700 to watch the action in the Delta Center.

"I went to Jon Jones [and Daniel Cormier] in Anaheim, and it wasn't half this for the fan experience and all of that,” Sherlock said.

The fan experience gave those who turned out all sorts of interactive opportunities, from showing off their striking to the chance to hold the BMF Title, the very belt Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje fought for, as well as getting to shake hands and take pictures with UFC fighters themselves.

"I'm just looking forward to meeting Belal Mohammed, that's the main guy,” Sherlock said.

Some fight fans came all the way to downtown Salt Lake City from different countries for this major MMA event.

"We came to see two special fights: the co-main event and the main event. We love these two match-ups,” said Darling Jimenez, who came to Utah from the Dominican Republic with his brother.

"It's excellent, very calm, fun, and overall, just a great atmosphere,” said Jimenez about Salt Lake City.

The fan experience put on by the UFC is something fight fans in Salt Lake City hope will lead to more UFC events coming to Utah in the future.

“It puts us on the map knowing that this is a big place for UFC fights,” said Amy Byrd, a UFC fan from Salt Lake City. “Everybody that loves fights can come out and enjoy the excitement.”

To put in perspective how successful UFC 291 was here in Salt Lake, the UFC says nearly 18,500 people were in attendance at the Delta Center Saturday night. The live gate, according to the UFC, was nearly $6.6 million, breaking the previous venue record at UFC 278.

Ryan Smith, the owner of the Utah Jazz, also told members of the media after UFC 291 that he wants to turn UFC events at the Delta Center into a staple of the summer. Despite that, it is not yet confirmed whether or not that will happen in the future.