UFC 223 is upon us, but it has traveled a rocky road that didn’t get any smoother at Friday’s official early weigh-in in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The changes began on Sunday, when original UFC 223 main eventer Tony Ferguson had to pull out of his planned bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov because of a freak knee injury. It marked the fourth time a match-up between the two has been canceled.
UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway was quick to step up and save the fight, agreeing to battle Nurmagomedov for the undisputed UFC lightweight championship.
Friday’s weigh-in seemed to be going smoothly, with Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rose Namajunas, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk all weighing in early and hitting their marks, but then things suddenly took another dark turn when Holloway was deemed medically unfit to fight.
“With much regret and after careful review, a joint decision was made between the state athletic commission and the UFC, we deemed Mr. Holloway medically unfit to attend the scale,” a New York State Athletic Commission official stated.
Nurmagomedov, who has had trouble with weigh-ins in the past, stepped on the scale at 154.5 early in the proceedings before learning that Holloway was out of the bout.
Shifting to their disaster plan, UFC officials worked a deal to insert Anthony Pettis into the main event to fight Nurmagomedov for the undisputed UFC lightweight championship. Pettis had originally been slated to fight Michael Chiesa on the UFC 223 main card, but Chiesa, along with Ray Borg, were casualties of Conor McGregor’s media day meltdown on Thursday.
Though Pettis initially weighed 155.2 pounds near the end of the two-hour official weigh-in window, because he had agreed to step into a title fight, he was given an additional two hours to lose 0.2 pounds, per New York State Athletic Commission regulations.
After Pettis disappeared, presumably to try and make the 155.0-pound mark, he never returned. A short time later, commission officials removed the scale, then the fur began to fly.
Sources pointed to numerous different scenarios that were being attempted to keep a main event intact, but as quickly as a promising solution seemed imminent, it was shot down for one reason or another.
Sources indicated that Pettis and the UFC couldn’t come to terms; Paul Felder tried to step in, but later said commission officials denied him; and rumors were still swirling around Al Iaquinta.
At the time of publication, Nurmagomedov had made weight, but was still awaiting resolution as to whether or not he would have an opponent.
An announcement had been forthcoming for more than an hour by the time of publication with no clear timeline in sight.
The UFC 223 co-main event is an immediate rematch between srawweight champion Rose Namajunas and former titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk, which will move forward as planned. Namajunas weighed in first, hitting 114.2 pounds, while Jedrzejczyk stepped on the scale at 114 pounds even.
Jedrzejczyk blamed much of her performance in their first fight on a bad weight cut, but indicated all week long that it has been smooth sailing into the UFC 223 weigh-in.
Three other UFC 223 bouts were canceled on Thursday following the McGregor instigated melee instigated by McGregor, Artem Lobov, and several other individuals after the UFC 223 Media Day. McGregor and his crew stormed the Barclays Center and ravaged a bus full of fighters, an incident that injured Chiesa and Borg.
Lobov was immediately removed from his bout with Alex Caceres for having participated in the fracas alongside McGregor. Chiesa and Borg’s bouts – with Pettis and Brando Moreno, respectively – were also canceled when both were deemed medically unfit to fight at UFC 223 on Saturday.
The remainder of the UFC 223 roster was cleared without incident at the weigh-in, leaving the fight card to limp forward with 10 bouts.
UFC 223: Khabib vs. Holloway Weigh-in Results
Main Card (10 p.m. ET on Pay-Per-View)
- Khabib Nurmagomedov (154.5) vs. TBD () — Holloway Out
- Rose Namajunas (c)(114.2) vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk (114)
- Renato Moicano (145.6) vs. Calvin Kattar (145.4)
- Zabit Magomedsharipov (145.8) vs. Kyle Bochniak (145.2)
- Al Iaquinta (155.2) vs. Paul Felder (155)
Prelims (8 p.m. ET on FS1)
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz (115) vs. Felice Herrig (115.4)
- Joe Lauzon (155.4) vs. Chris Gruetzemacher (155)
- Bec Rawlings (125.8) vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith (125.8)
- Evan Dunham (155.8) vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (155)
Early Prelims (7:30 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass)
- Devin Clark (205.2) vs. Mike Rodriguez (203)
Follow along on Saturday on MMAWeekly.com for UFC 223: Khabib vs. Holloway full live results and fight stats. The first bout is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET following the cancellation of three bouts after Conor McGregor’s media day melee.