Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler explained: What we know about the uncertainty with UFC 303’s main event

UFC fans are biting their nails over the status of Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler. McGregor’s first fight in nearly three years is expected to headline UFC 303 in Las Vegas on June 29 for International Fight Week. Everything appeared to be smooth sailing until Sunday.

McGregor and Chandler were set to take part in a sold-out press conference in McGregor’s home city of Dublin. UFC president Dana White told reporters he was booked for a plane to Dublin immediately after Saturday’s UFC 302 press conference. By Sunday morning, UFC pulled the plug on the event.

“The UFC 303 press conference scheduled for Monday, June 3 in Dublin, Ireland at 3Arena has been postponed until further notice,” UFC released in a statement. “We sincerely apologize to all the fans who were planning to attend. When we have further information on a new date and time, we will share it immediately.”

McGregor broke his silence on Monday but failed to give fans any clarity. The former two-division UFC champion chalked up the cancellation to outside obstacles.

“In consultation with the UFC, today’s press conference was cancelled due to a series of obstacles outside of our control,” McGregor wrote. “I apologize to my Irish fans, and fans around the world, for the inconvenience and appreciate all your passion and support. I can’t wait to put on the greatest all-time show in the Octagon.”

The abrupt cancellation or postponement has people fearing the fight will fall through. White and company have been radio silent about the situation. Meanwhile, the fighters involved have resorted to cryptic social media posts.

The only information moving the story forward by Tuesday morning comes from mixed martial arts journalist Ariel Helwani. There is reportedly some optimism the fight will move forward as planned but that UFC is putting out feelers to other fighters.

“The hope is still that the fight is on,” Helwani tweeted Tuesday. “There is positivity, I’d say. But they have sent out feelers to see who might be able to fill in, either as a replacement or an entirely new fight at the top of the bill. Still developing, and still some time.”

Helwani also claimed the press conference cancellation had nothing to do with legal or anti-doping issues.

“Nothing with regards to any sort of legal issue, incident of any kind, drama of any kind, criminal thing of any kind, fight of any kind, alcohol, this, that, like, none of that is at play here,” Helwani said separately on “The MMA Hour” podcast.

“There’s nothing regarding any sort of drug testing or anti-doping or anything like that.”

The panic over McGregor vs. Chandler points to two painful realities for UFC in 2024: its event calendar and rising ticket prices.

UFC held 43 events in 2023, averaging an event every 1.2 weeks. The promotion spreads out its star power to accommodate its mammoth schedule resulting in a lower average quality per card. The last three McGregor cards have indeed relied heavily on his star power, but having one fight to hold together the promotion’s tentpole annual event is risky. UFC 303’s co-main event is short-lived former champion Jamahal Hill — coming off a KO loss — against the promotion’s No. 11 ranked light heavyweight, Carlos Ulberg. Even that fight is a patchwork after Hill was scheduled to face Khalil Rountree before Rountree tested positive for a banned substance. Nothing screams off the page besides Ian Machado Garry vs. Michael Page.

White regularly boasts about UFC’s record-setting gates. It’s a legitimate accomplishment made possible by the UFC’s brand strength and public demand for their events. On May 11, White told reporters at a UFC Fight Night press conference that McGregor’s return to the T-Mobile Arena already generated “way over $20 million.” Chances are the fans who paid between $405 and $3,005 for tickets, excluding dynamic pricing, aren’t thrilled about potentially missing out on UFC 303’s only major selling point, even though they’d be entitled to a refund should the main event fall apart.

UFC International Fight Week is less than four weeks away and its marquee draw appears to be in jeopardy. The fight is officially slated for June 29 but fans won’t rest easy until the promotion or one of the fighters involved provides clarity.

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