A crowd of 7,596 enthusiastic fans flocked to the USF Sundome to witness the UFC’s first venture into Tampa. UFC Fight Night 17, headlined by Joe Lauzon and Jeremy Stephens, raked in a live gate of $428,000. The final figures should be released by the Florida State Boxing Commission some time next week.

The last major MMA event held in Florida had been EliteXC’s “Heat” at the Bank Atlantic┬áCenter. EliteXC’s final card under the guide of Jeremy Lappen and Jared “Skala” Shaw attracted 7,701 spectators to Sunrise, FL. and fetched a live gate of $677,793 and 847 of those seats had been given out as “comped” tickets.

After UFC Fight Night 17 concluded, Dana White spoke to the St. Petersburg Times and informed them that the UFC will return to Tampa in 2010.

“We’ll definitely be returning to Tampa early next year, and it’ll be a pay-per-view.”

The UFC dished out $120,000 in bonuses at the end of the night. Four of the participants went away with an extra $30,000 in their pockets for their efforts Saturday evening.

Lauzon took home “Submission of the Night” honors for his arm bar victory over Stephens. American Kick Boxing Academy heavyweight, Cain Velasquez, earned “Knockout of the Night” for his bludgeoning of Denis Stojnic. Josh Neer and Mac Danzig earned the nod of “Fight of the Night” for their opening bout effort.

The next UFC Fight Night scheduled for April 1, 2009 at the Sommet Center in Nashville,TN headlines a welterweight matchup between Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann.

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