UFC 303: Chaos Magic

ufc 303
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After a Herculean effort to save International Fight Week, UFC 303…happened. For better or worse, the show went on.

Related: 10 Best Finishes of UFC 303 Including Alex Pereira’s KO of Jamahal Hill

In an alternative universe, Alex Pereira never knew that his former kickboxing opponent turned UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya mentioned him in an unflattering way. In that same universe, there was no one that the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion could call upon to save the day twice in three months. 

Fortunately for fans and the UFC alike, “Poatan” watched that interview and obsessively chased his old rival to steal his gold belt on the way to forging his own distinct legacy as one of the best to ever compete in MMA. 

In our current reality, Alex Pereira didn’t just accept a call to serve as a substitute for Conor McGregor on this card. That substitution may have symbolically extended to being the face of the company and its most reliable star. 

Coming off of the couch to face Jiri Prochazka in a dangerous rematch was admirable in and of itself. However, what Alex Pereira did in the Octagon was nothing short of exceptional.

Pereira was able to take the former champion, who managed to hurt him less than a year ago in their UFC 295 main event, and render him completely ineffective for the short duration of the fight.

Now that his second title defense has concluded, we can only wonder what’s next for the 2024 front runner for Fighter of the Year. Whether it be Magomed Ankalaev, Nikita Krylov, Volkan Oezdemir, or a potentially history breaking heavyweight run, all eyes will be on Poatan.

UFC 303’s Hamster On A Wheel Moment

ufc 303
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While the original main event of UFC 303 falling through wasn’t the biggest shock in the world, the story of the co-main event was a more surprising development. What was supposed to be a critical light heavyweight fight between Jamahal Hill and Khalil Rountree slowly morphed into a catchweight fight between Diego Lopes and Dan Ige, a pair of career featherweights.

Also Read: Ringside Intel’s Latest Boxing Heavyweight Rankings: Where Does Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk Land In The Top 10?

Inadvertently, that bout, which was made just several hours before the opening bell, was a display of what the UFC is now. 

As fast as rumors began swirling that Brian Ortega was forced to withdraw due to illness during the preliminary card, chatter about Ige agreeing to fill in followed. It didn’t take long for the UFC to confirm the new bout on the broadcast and get a Nevada Athletic Commission official to explain the inner workings. 

When it was time both men stepped in the cage and did exactly what they’re paid to do. Lopes got his hand raised and Ige was deservedly applauded by the crowd in attendance and social media for his efforts.

Now what? Lopes’ opportunity to jump up the rankings with a win over a top three former two-time title challenger transformed into a win against a man ranked just one place above him with an asterisk attached. A roster spot was filled on the card, but not much else was accomplished. 

That shouldn’t be held against those behind the scenes that made it all happen. The adaptability displayed by Dana White and Hunter Campbell by keeping the ball rolling amongst bumps in the road is impressive. The broadcast and production team scrambling to seamlessly blend the changes into their workflow without skipping a beat was masterful. The mental strength and self-belief it must’ve taken for the fighters to compete in far from ideal circumstances is commendable.

However, shouldn’t it all mean something more than just putting bodies in the event just to have them there? If the UFC is still the “ultimate proving ground” for combat sports, shouldn’t there be some point where everyone pauses to figure out what it’s all leading to? And that’s not even scratching the surface of the tremendous red flags being raised on the regulatory side of things.

The UFC is a fast-paced organization that is nearly seamless logistically. Perhaps this was a case where maybe the show should’ve not gone on. It was fun, it was memorable, and it makes for a great story. But let’s not do that again.

Also Read: Sean O’Malley next fight: ‘Sugar’ set to face No. 1 contender in UFC return

Ant Walker is a native of the Washington DC area that now lives in Los Angeles. He has been... More about Anthony Walker

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