Fans Win with UFC 303 Replacement

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Let’s start by flashing back to the early hours of Monday, June 3. A week and a half ago, while a number of MMA fans were nestled in their beds, dreaming of one-punch knockouts and rear-naked chokes, the UFC announced that a scheduled pre-fight press conference involving scheduled headliners Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler for the June 29 UFC 303 was postponed less than 12 hours before it was to start in Dublin, Ireland.

At the time, no reason was given as to why the press conference was called off, only that it was indefinitely postponed. With time marching on, speculation ran rampant on the status of the originally-scheduled main event. By June 5, Ariel Helwani mentioned that there was “great optimism” that the UFC 303 main event from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas would still happen on schedule.

So, How Did We Get to This Point?

Within the week, all the positive momentum that the UFC had about the McGregor vs. Chandler fight taking place as originally advertised vanished. On June 11, Helwani took to social media again to share a concerning update about the headliner of the UFC’s first pay-per-view of the summer.

By Thursday night, as PFL 4 was going on in Uncasville, CT, the news was made official by UFC CEO Dana White: The planned McGregor vs. Chandler tilt was off for June 29. McGregor will be unable to make the walk due to an injury.

All hope is not lost for Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler to eventually make the walk. An effort to rebook the postponed UFC 303 main event later on in the summer is being made. Helwani mentioned in a post on X that “The Notorious'” injury happened prior to the postponed press conference.

Thoughts on McGregor/ Chandler Postponement

The UFC had been building up to this for the last two months and to lose the fight two weeks out is no doubt an unfortunate outcome for every single fan of competitive violence who’s waited the better part of two years to see McGregor back in action again. However, with McGregor being injured in the run-up to the pre-fight press conference, why wasn’t the promotion more honest with fans that this planned main event wasn’t going to happen?

If they had done this in a press release earlier this week or late last week instead of waiting as long as they did before officially announcing the contest would be delayed, it would have been much better. Doing something like this is how the UFC loses fans.

When a professional sports organization, be it a team-competitive league or a combat sports promotion, loses fans, especially longtime fans, those supporters may never come back again. Whether or not McGregor and Chandler put on a show at The Sphere in Vegas or even if McGregor fights again remains to be seen.

Light Heavyweight Championship Rematch in New UFC 303 Main Event

That said, they’ve saved UFC 303 from being a dud. Subsequent to the indefinite postponement of the Conor McGregor/ Michael Chandler fight, a rematch pitting Alex “Poatan” Pereira (10-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) and Jiri Prochazka (30-4-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) on June 29 was announced as the new headlining bout in two weeks’ time. At stake: Pereira’s UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

They just fought one another last November during the UFC’s annual trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the UFC 295 main event. That fall evening in The Big Apple, Pereira bested the former RIZIN Light Heavyweight Champion by way of second-round knockout.

Both men fought and won by knockout during the landmark UFC 300 at the aforementioned T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on April 13 of this year. Pereira defended his strap with a first-round stoppage of Jamahal Hill (12-2-1 MMA, 6-2, 1 NC UFC) in the UFC 300 main event, while Prochazka finished Aleksandr Rakic (14-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) in round two.

It’s a Win-Win Situation

At the core, the restructured UFC 303 main event is a wonderful outcome all around for everyone involved with the promotion. Any time that you can get a flagship combat sports card headlined by a championship fight, you’re in for a good night of action.

Had the UFC 303 main event remained Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler, with no championship at stake, it wouldn’t have been as good. While McGregor is a household name, at this point in his professional life, he’s no longer interested in actively chasing championships.

McGregor’s tilt against Chandler, if and when it does happen, is a money fight.  Pereira/ Prochazka is the superior fight compared to what could have been seen in two weeks.

Final Thoughts

Anyone who’s considering not buying UFC 303 ahead of June 29 needs to stop and think about the decision they’re making. This is an amazing fight coming up.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.