Conor McGregor’s Return in Doubt as UFC Searches for Replacement

Conor McGregor’s Return in Doubt as UFC Searches for Replacement

Award-winning MMA journalist Ariel Helwani reported that Conor McGregor’s return fight at UFC 303 is ‘extremely unlikely’ to take place.

As skepticism toward the Irishman’s highly-anticipated fight against Michael Chandler circulates, Helwani has been on top of updates from his sources in the UFC.

With the scheduled June 29 fight day quickly approaching, The MMA Hour host suggests there is still no certainty regarding the big-ticket headliner. Meanwhile, he added that the organization has been keen on working out a backup plan.

‘It’s not 100% off but I’d be extremely surprised at this point if it remains and they are actively negotiating with multiple camps to find a replacement,’ Helwani responded to a user who asked for an update.

‘It’s all up in the air still but they are proceeding at this time like they need a replacement.’

Ariel Helwani reported that Conor McGregor's return at UFC 303 is looking 'extremely unlikely'

Ariel Helwani reported that Conor McGregor’s return at UFC 303 is looking ‘extremely unlikely’

UFC chief Dana White is yet to give an update amid all the skepticism surrounding the fight

UFC chief Dana White is yet to give an update amid all the skepticism surrounding the fight 

While there has not been a word directly from Dana White or McGregor’s camp, there appears to be a hint of optimism from the UFC, who shared a poster promoting The Notorious’ return on their Instagram story.

The slide, posted on Thursday afternoon, features a photo of McGregor and a graphic that reads: ‘Experience McGregor’s return: Win Big!’

In addition to the main event seeming unable to find solid ground, Helwani also reported that the co-headliner featuring Jamahal Hill and Carlos Ulberg may also be in jeopardy.

‘In addition to working on a new main for 303, I’m told UFC is also looking at a new co-main for that card,’ Helwani wrote. ‘The current co-main – Hill x Ulberg – might need a replacement now too, and if so it could get bumped down. One new fight that has been discussed – not for the main – is Brian Ortega x Diego Lopes.’

Contrary to the reports circulating, the UFC shared a poster promoting McGregor's return

Contrary to the reports circulating, the UFC shared a poster promoting McGregor’s return 

McGregor is scheduled to fight Michael Chandler in the main event of UFC 303 in Las Vegas

McGregor is scheduled to fight Michael Chandler in the main event of UFC 303 in Las Vegas 

The blunders revolving around what was a stacked June schedule did not stop there. Earlier in the day, Kamzat Chimaev was reported to be out for his title eliminator against Robert Whittaker at UFC Fight Night in Saudi Arabia.

The doubt toward the highly-anticipated fight between McGregor and Chandler began when a June 1 press conference in Dublin got postponed in the 11th hour.

After the presser was called off, McGregor apologized to the fans and cited the cancelation was due to a ‘series of obstacles out of our control.’

The events that transpired from that point worried fans as it appeared the build-up was sprinting towards a wall of disappointment.

The UFC paused advertising UFC 303 on pay-per-view and archived the free McGregor fights posted to promote the event.

McGregor has not fought since breaking his leg in a loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021

McGregor has not fought since breaking his leg in a loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021 

McGregor and Chandler coached opposite each other in a season of The Ultimate Fighter

McGregor and Chandler coached opposite each other in a season of The Ultimate Fighter 

The fight between Chandler and McGregor was officially announced after UFC 300 in April

The fight between Chandler and McGregor was officially announced after UFC 300 in April

McGregor and UFC chief Dana White remained quiet through the period, while Chandler hinted through an Instagram post that he had left training camp and went home to Nashville.

‘If you’re looking for me, I’ll be out in Tennessee. No way out of the life we chose,’ Chandler wrote. ‘Walk On. See you at the top!’

Additionally, the UFC reportedly sent out feelers and looked for potential replacements, gearing for a worst-case scenario.

The doubt towards UFC 303 sprung from a press conference in Dublin getting cancelled

The doubt towards UFC 303 sprung from a press conference in Dublin getting cancelled 

Chandler hinted leaving training camp to go home to Nashville amid all of the speculation

Chandler hinted leaving training camp to go home to Nashville amid all of the speculation

However, fans saw a ray of light when the campaign for the fight resumed. On June 8, the UFC posted an official promo for the UFC 303 main event across their YouTube and social media platforms.

However, On Tuesday, Helwani posted a tweet providing an update from his sources. He wrote that after pausing feelers and replacement searches, the UFC has resumed the backup quest.

‘As I reported yesterday – as potential replacements, i.e. a new fight, as backups, as someone stepping in for McGregor, or as insurance. Just in case, all these things are at play.’

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