UFC 303 instant reaction: McGregor-Chandler cancellation, Pereira-Procházka rematch and more

Conor McGregor's fight with Michael Chandler canceled (2:13)

Brett Okamoto goes through Conor McGregor's fight timeline since it was announced his UFC 303 main event bout vs. Michael Chandler has been canceled. (2:13)

And just like that, we have a new main and co-main event at UFC 303.

Out are Conor McGregor and Jamahal Hill, as both have been ruled out of the June 29 card due to injuries. The new main event is a light heavyweight title fight rematch between current champion Alex Pereira and former champion Jiří Procházka. Also in for the co-main event is Brian Ortega, ESPN's No. 4-ranked featherweight, who will face rising star Diego Lopes. Hill's opponent, Carlos Ulberg, doesn't leave UFC 303 empty-handed, as Anthony Smith will step in for another light heavyweight bout on the main card.

Big questions loom after the massive reshuffling of the International Fight Week card. Just how good is UFC 303 now? Will we ever see McGregor and Michael Chandler fight? Where do the bettors lean on the three new fights?

Andreas Hale, Brett Okamoto, Jeff Wagenheim and Ian Parker address these questions and more, including assessing what this means for the promotion and what's next for Chandler.

Fill in the blank: The new UFC 303 main event card is __________.

Hale: A shocking delivery, again. The UFC's ability to navigate disasters is perhaps one of the promotion's most underrated qualities. And few are more devastating than losing the biggest star in combat sports on short notice for what was slated to be a blockbuster night for the UFC. Somehow, it managed to deliver a quality main event with one of its budding stars (Pereira) facing a familiar foe who is never in a bad fight (Procházka) while also surprising fans with an Ortega vs. Lopes featherweight tilt that we didn't know we wanted until we got it. Not to mention a solid light heavyweight fight added between Ulberg and Smith.

No, it's not remotely close to the mainstream attraction that McGregor's return was set to be. Still, Dana White and Hunter Campbell's options were extremely limited, with the UFC's next two PPVs being staged overseas and most of their biggest names either tied to future fights or on the sidelines. They made lemonade out of lemons when other promoters in the fight game simply aren't nimble enough to salvage a disaster of this magnitude and would have likely shuttered the entire card.

If there's a season two of "Fight Inc: Inside the UFC" that pulls the curtain back on how they navigated UFC 303 and the UFC's Saudi Arabia event, sign me up.

Is it the best the UFC could do, given the circumstances?

Okamoto: One million percent. White is correct when he says other leagues and fight promotions could not pull this off. Every time something like this happens, it's remarkable how the UFC finds a way to pull a rabbit out of its hat. Many phone calls were made to many different athletes, each with their own life and set of obstacles in taking a fight on short notice. Other ideas and potential fights were thrown around for this that the public might never even hear about.

Whatever your opinion or interest level is in this new lineup, it's fascinating that the UFC can reconstruct a PPV event so quickly.

At this point, will McGregor and Chandler ever fight?

Wagenheim: Is it even possible to speculate without knowing the extent of McGregor's injury and the timetable for his return? Will he be healed in a month or two? Will it be a year? White, who prefers to dole out UFC news himself rather than letting the media report it, barely mentioned McGregor in his announcement on X before trumpeting the various replacement bouts in great detail. McGregor is the biggest star in the sport's history. His status is the story here.

Here's what I can say: Chandler has already waited for more than a year and a half, so it stands to reason that he would wait some more for by far the biggest payday of his life. And McGregor is savvy enough to recognize that the forward-marching Chandler is the perfect opponent for his well-timed counterpunching to shine in his comeback. Those two factors would suggest that yes, we'll get McGregor vs. Chandler at some point.

But that's too logical. It ignores the chaos that has followed McGregor for nearly a decade. This fight cancellation is the latest example, and I imagine it will not be the last. So, while I have no idea who McGregor would fight instead, or if he will ever fight again, I'm inclined to say no, Chandler's road paved with gold will turn out to be a dead end.

What should Chandler's next move be?

Okamoto: First, Chandler should absolutely go ham on McGregor in interviews and social media. Let him have it. Chandler has waited a long time for this. He was willing to take it on any date and at any weight. And that's to be expected, right? McGregor is the "A-side," I get that. But now that he's pulled out, if I'm Chandler, I'm letting the world know that I think this injury had a lot to do with the beating McGregor knew I was about to put him through. And after that, move on.

Chandler needs to take another fight at this point, because I agree with Jeff that McGregor never fights again.

Where do the betting experts lean on the three new fights at UFC 303?

Diego Lopes wows crowd with another electric KO

Diego Lopes and his iconic mullet impress the Las Vegas crowd at UFC 300 with a vicious flurry of punches that forces a stop to the fight.

Parker: Here's a breakdown of the three new fights on the UFC 303 card.

Alex Pereira vs. Jiri Procházka: In his last fight, Procházka lost Round 1 to Aleksandar Rakic and took a ton of leg kicks that normally would down any other human being. Yes, he weathered the storm and got the finish to earn him a title rematch, but I don't think Procházka has returned to form before his injury. And in a fight against Pereira, where a fight will likely stay on the feet, I will take the champion to win.

Diego Lopes vs. Brian Ortega: Lopes will get an opportunity against a top-ranked featherweight fighter, hoping to skip the line to a title shot. I love Lopes in this spot. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with knockout power, Lopes has the tools to compete and finish Ortega. In Ortega's last fight, where he got dropped early by Yair Rodriguez, he was able to mount a tremendous comeback to earn the win. However, if he gets dropped by Lopes, I don't believe he'll recover. Lopes to win by money-line.

Anthony Smith vs. Carlos Ulberg: This fight will go one of two ways, and I'll play it as such. I'll take Smith to win by submission or Ulberg to win by TKO/KO in a double-chance wager. Those are the only two reasonable results to expect, and with Smith likely fighting as a decent underdog here, I expect his submission line to be of value. Meanwhile, Ulberg might get an attractive +110 for the TKO/KO win.