Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 | 2:48 p.m.
Forget Maple Leaf Square.
For an hour this afternoon at the UFC 165 weigh-in, the area outside of the Air Canada Centre turned into Scandinavian Cross Square. Sweden’s flag was more present than Canada’s.
Blue and yellow was more prevalent than red and white, as a large contingent of fans turned out to support the light heavyweight championship challenger Alexander Gustafsson in his voyage to dethrone Jon Jones.
“I have a goal to bring the belt back to Sweden,” Gustafsson said in a video shown at the event. “I think about it every day in training when you’re sweating, you’re crying, you’re bleeding.”
Gustafsson, who like Jones came in on weight at 204.5 pounds, apparently has a legion that would accompany him back home with the belt. The 3,500-mile flight from Stockholm must have been a small price to pay for the chance to witness Sweden’s first UFC champion.
Despite headlining in this city for the third time in three years, Jones was not received warmly. His walk out to the stage was met with boos until he employed an old trick to turn the tide — free stuff.
Jones tossed his Nike shoes and shirt into the crowd before stepping onto the scale, where he let out a roar so loud it carried over the event’s blaring speaker system upon making weight.
“This is going to be my third championship here in Canada,” Jones said. “And I can’t wait.”
The other potential new champion, Eddie Wineland (135.25), also appeared to be a crowd favorite. The Indiana native, who meets Renan Barao (135) in the co-main event interim bantamweight champion, got perhaps the second-best reaction.
He’ll need more than support to get past Barao, who’s won an unimaginable 30 fights in a row.
The eight Canadian fighters must have felt envious of Gustafsson and Wineland. One of them, Ivan Menjivar, didn’t do himself any favors.
Menjivar initially came in a pound over the bantamweight limit of 136 pounds ahead of his preliminary-card bout with Wilson Reis (135). Menjivar, who is from El Salvador but trains out of Montreal, redeemed himself by shedding the extra pound an hour later to ensure he didn’t come in heavy for the second time in the UFC.
Menjivar made it a perfect 26-for-26 with fighters making weight. There were two other close calls as bantamweight Alex Caceres (136) and lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov (156) immediately called for a towel so they could strip down on the scale.
Nurmagomedov shook his head in concern until the Ontario Athletic Commission official declared his weight. At that point, Nurmagomedov exploded in celebration and prompted noise from the crowd.
He continued to show his relief by placing his customary blonde wig on opponent Pat Healy’s (205) head during the staredown. Nurmagomedov vs. Healy opens the pay-per-view card tomorrow night.
Not all the faceoffs were friendly. Heavyweights Brendan Schaub (237) and Matt Mitrione (260.5.) went nose-to-nose and glared each other for 10 seconds until the latter began chirping and pointing in his opponent’s face.
Schaub barked back, and the exchange went on until the two were escorted from the stage. The scene enlivened the crowd before another intense staredown between Jones and Gustafsson.
Jones inched toward Gustafsson but refused to look the Swede in the eyes until the final seconds.
“I need to remain the champion,” Jones said on the video. “It’s bigger than one fight. It’s about being the greatest combatant of all time.”
Check below for full results from the UFC 165 weigh-in.
Light heavyweight championship bout: Jon Jones (204.5) vs. Alexander Gustafasson (204.5)
Interim bantamweight championship bout: Renan Barao (135) vs. Eddie Wineland (135.25)
Heavyweight bout: Brendan Schaub (237) vs. Matt Mitrione (260.5)
Welterweight bout: Costa Philippou (186) vs. Francis Carmont (186)
Lightweight bout: Pat Healy (155.75) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (156)
Lightweight bout: Mike Ricci (155.5) vs. Myles Jury (156)
Bantamweight bout: Ivan Menjivar (137) vs. Wilson Reis (135)
Welterweight bout: Chris Clements (169.5) vs. Stephen Thompson (170.5)
Bantamweight bout: Mitch Gagnon (136) vs. Dustin Kimura (136)
Lightweight bout: John Makdessi (155) vs. Renee Forte (155.5)
Lightweight bout: Michel Prazeres (155) vs. Jesse Ronson (155.5)
Bantamweight bout: Roland Delorme (136) vs. Alex Caceres (136)
Heavyweight bout: Nandor Guelmino (230) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (245.5)