UFC 303: Top-5 Fights to Make if McGregor vs. Chandler Fails

The UFC remains silent regarding McGregor vs. Chandler.
UFC
UFC /

Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler is nearing its two-week countdown mark. Fans have seen the UFC 303 main event enter limbo as rumors swirl about whether it will take place.

Recent reports and posts from and about McGregor-Chandler indicate that the main event is precarious. Since June 3, the UFC has not provided any clarity regarding the situation or a rock-solid reason for the press conference's postponement.

UFC 303 has little choice but to move forward as it caps off international fight week, UFC X, a hall of fame induction, and one of the biggest gates in company history ($20M).

Given the circumstances, here are five realistic options the UFC could adjust to so that the card can still go off on June 29.

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1- Alex  Pereira vs. Jiri Prochazka

5 fights to make if McGregor vs. Chandler fails
Alex Pereira has spoken about being active in recent interviews. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Both Alex Pereira and Jiri Prochazka won impressively in their last outings. Despite it being a quick turnaround, neither fighter took substantial damage or seemed like they wanted to take time off. Prochazka all but confirmed that he had been contacted by the promotion in an exclusive interview at an OKTAGON MMA event over the weekend, making this fight highly likely realistic.

2- Michael Chandler vs. Max Holloway

5 fights to make if McGregor vs. Chandler fails
Max Holloway's star-power has never been higher after his highlight-reel KO over Justin Gaethje at UFC 300. / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Again, this is another short-notice opportunity for both men, especially Chandler, who would remain on UFC 303. The issue with this fight is two-fold – Holloway just fought and knocked out Justin Gaethje in a five-round war just two months ago and has never fought at welterweight.

On the other hand, Chandler, who is 2-3 in the UFC and has not fought since Nov. 2022, would have to prepare for a completely new opponent. The question remains: Is Holloway ready for a move up in weight, and are both fighters willing to risk potential title shots down the road if it comes to fruition?

3 - Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic

5 fights to make if McGregor vs. Chandler fails
Inactivity has marred Jon Jones' late career. / Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If the UFC were to go this route, it would be a crazy turn of events, especially considering Jon Jones, who has not fought since March 2023, is finally off the mend after injuring his pectoral muscle. At press time, the UFC has yet to indicate when his fight with Stipe Miocic will happen, but given that Jones’ recovery timetable was six months to a year, that puts the timetable at UFC 309 or UFC 310.

Although the buildup would be reduced to weeks rather than months, the fight sells itself. Miocic holds the record for the most consecutive heavyweight title defenses. In contrast, Jones, who has competed in the UFC since 2008, has held both the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles, arguably making him the greatest fighter MMA has ever seen, regardless of promotion.

To book the fight now seems unlikely, but if the UFC were to do it, UFC 303 would undoubtedly be a success because it’s a fight that needs to happen before both men eventually retire.

4 - Dricus du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya 

5 fights to make if McGregor vs. Chandler fails
Dricus du Plessis' first title defense has had little conversation since he won gold in January. / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Whether the fight happens in Perth on Aug. 17 or Las Vegas on June 29, the middleweight title fight between Dricus du Plessis and Israel Adesanya must happen. It is arguably the biggest grudge match since the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen saga in 2010 and 2012. Both have said racial undertones to one another, downplayed injuries and want what the other person has: bragging rights for the best fighter with African heritage.

As much as Jones and Miocic could slide right into the UFC 303 main event, this is the fight that should happen. Both are in camp and training. Both will fight eventually, and both are healthy. There’s not much more to be asked of either man.

5 - Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko 3

5 fights to make if McGregor vs. Chandler fails
Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 ended in a controversial draw. / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Although TUF 32 has gotten underway over the last two weeks, the UFC may have no choice but to make the trilogy between Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko. Despite not being the “wow factor” many fans were likely anticipating, it’s a high-level fight to determine who the best woman is now at 125 pounds.

The only downside to making the fight now, however, is that it kills the momentum of the reality show and the long-standing tradition (during most years of the series) when the two coaches fight one another at the season’s end. And, depending on how fans view the two meetings thus far, it’s 1-0-1 or 0-1-1, making a third fight a must-see before 2024 concludes.

For now, however, it remains to be seen what the UFC does. The clock continues to tick with IFW right around the corner. The “scramble mode” phase is gone. It’s time to make a move and solidify what happens next regarding the event's status.


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Zain Bando

ZAIN BANDO

Zain Bando is a writer for MMA Knockout, part of the Sports Illustrated/Minute Media umbrella. He has covered combat sports since 2019 for notable outlets BJPenn.com and FanSided MMA. He also co-hosts a podcast called "The MMA Outsiders," part of the Empty The Bench Podcast Network, which airs Tuesday nights at 7:00 p.m. ET/4:00 p.m. PT. A Chicago suburban native, Bando has been enthralled with MMA since 2006 and has been fortunate to attend some of the most high-profile events in the sport's history, both as a fan and media member, including UFC 264, Bellator 297 and Kayla Harrison's PFL MMA debut. He is excited to take the next step in his combat sports writing journey and looks forward to continuing his following of the fight game for years to come. Bando can be reached via email at zainbando99@gmail.com or by social media @zainbando99