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Crowd numbers are still unclear

Officials, promoters say mixed martial arts card at Coliseum drew record turnout, but nobody can say for sure how many people attended.

June 09, 2007|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Despite accounting numbers warped by nonexistent turnstiles and questions about how a Japanese-based promoter distributed more than 39,000 tickets, the promotion company behind last weekend's mixed martial arts card at the Coliseum is proclaiming it the best-attended MMA show in U.S. history.

"This is why we went to the Coliseum: to make a statement," said Mike Kogan, the U.S.-based events director for Fighting and Entertainment Group. "For anyone to then question our numbers is preposterous and ridiculous."

In its final gate report from Saturday's show, the California State Athletic Commission reported there were 42,757 tickets sold, and that 18,340 fans clicked through some of the Coliseum gates that were equipped with turnstiles.

Witnesses, including commission official William Douglas, said "truckloads" of spectators entered the Coliseum through gates that had no turnstiles.

Thus, promoters and commission members agree that the show broke the previous attendance record of 19,079, recorded at a March Ultimate Fighting Championships card in Ohio. Douglas and co-promoter Gary Shaw estimated the crowd between 25,000 and 30,000.

FEG's purchase and distribution of 39,083 tickets lacks the precise accounting of individual ticket sales typically afforded when venues and ticket agencies report figures.

The state commission reports that 3,674 tickets were sold by the Coliseum and Ticketmaster, and that 13,600 complimentary tickets also were available.

Asked if he fully endorsed the FEG stance that it sold 42,000 tickets to fans and that "at least" 50,000 attended the show, state commission official Douglas said, "Not at all. We know FEG handled more than 39,000 tickets. We don't know what they did with those. Some may be sitting in boxes in someone's apartment for all we know."

Even though an FEG executive promised a crowd of 100,000 at a June 1 news conference, Kogan scoffed at suggestions that FEG's sales and attendance figures were exaggerated, noting that FEG paid the commission a maximum $100,000 gate tax fee.

"All of those [39,083] tickets were sold, mostly to the Korean communities," Kogan said.

"Our card had a pretty heavy number of Korean fighters on it, and we were heavily relying on the Korean and Asian communities for sales. We directed our marketing to Koreatown and Little Tokyo."

The tickets handled by FEG were purchased at a cost of $1.6 million, according to the state commission, and discounted from their $2.3-million face value.

"We recouped $1.6 million from the ticket-buying public," Kogan said. "We didn't give them away."

*

Armando Garcia, executive director of the state athletic commission, announced Friday that heavyweight Tim Persey of Irvine tested positive for methamphetamine after his second-round loss to Jonathan Wiezorek.

Persey has been notified of a $1,000 fine and six-month suspension for his first offense, Garcia said. The fighter has 60 days to appeal.

Johnnie Morton, the former USC and NFL receiver, refused to take a drug test after his first-round loss to Bernard Ackah.

Garcia imposed an indefinite suspension against Morton, and is temporarily withholding his $100,000 purse.

Garcia said Morton did provide a pre-fight urine sample and the commission expects a test result next week.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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