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It’s on at the octagon, and city’s glad

Watch out, Las Vegas, it’s International Fight Week, and the swarms of Affliction shirt-clad visitors have arrived. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is hosting its first full International Fight Week through Saturday, in partnership with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

If the UFC’s research proves correct, the week’s events could net the city an economic impact of more than $140 million.

The week culminates in UFC 148, the middleweight fight between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen at 7 p.m. Saturday in the MGM Grand Garden Arena .

Past UFC events of similar size and significance to UFC 148 alone have generated an economic impact of more than $51 million for Las Vegas.

The UFC Fan Expo takes over Mandalay Bay starting at 10 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Onsite tickets for the expo range from $45, for general admission, to a $2,500 VIP package that includes two-day admission. In the past, the UFC fan expo has generated about $93.7 million for Las Vegas.

Together, these two events could bring in more than $140 million this weekend, and that’s not counting the other events that the UFC has up its sleeve, including the Octagon Nation Truck site at the Fremont Street Experience all week, or the free Independence Day Concert downtown.

"It has a very significant financial impact to the community," said Bryan Johnston, CMO for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The UFC expects fight week attendance of 50,000 and 60,000, with 40 percent coming from out of state and 5 percent to 10 percent international. Johnston said a strong contingent is expected from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Brazil, Canada and the United Kingdom.

In 2011, UFC fans accounted for 46,000 visitor trips to Las Vegas, and 80,000 room-nights.

And, UFC fans spend their hard-earned cash. The typical UFC visitor hits Las Vegas 2.2 times per year, has a nongaming budget of $1,528 and a gaming budget of $931. About 42 percent make $100,000 or more annually, according to the organization’s research.

Scott Stern, owner of Las Vegas Fight Shop in the Miracle Mile Shops, expects sales to double this weekend. He’s hosting a slew of meet-and-greets with UFC fighters to help draw in their legions of fans, and all his employees will work overtime.

Referring to the UFC’s new partnership with the travel authority, Johnston said: "It’s really important. It’s a sign of our growing up. It cements our relationship."

"We know the UFC, as a brand, has done an Independence Day event each year and it’s a good event for them," Jeremy Handel, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said of the partnership. "UFC has spread like wildfire across the globe."

The UFC and the authority already have booked International Fight Week for 2013 and 2014, helping to pad the city’s event calendar when a large-scale event is needed, Johnston said.

The Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship is owned by Zuffa LLC.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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