UFC 303: Diego Lopes defeats Dan Ige, who was fighting on 4 hours' notice

UFC 303 will be remembered as one of the most logistically chaotic cards in the promotion's history, with the disorder no more clear than Diego Lopes beating a man fighting on about four hours' notice.

The rising featherweight star defeated last-minute opponent Dan Ige by unanimous decision on Saturday (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), the culmination of a co-main event that had to be reworked four different times.

Lopes grabbed a decisive advantage with a strong first and second round, but Ige made a valiant effort in the third, catching the Brazilian with a number of hard blows and winning the round.

The fight was only made possible when Ige stepped in on the shortest of notices to replace Brian Ortega in the co-main. Ortega, who himself wasn't part of the card until June 13, was officially announced to be withdrawing during the preliminary card due to an illness that gave him a fever of 103 degrees, leaving the UFC to turn to Ige to face Lopes and save the card.

The fight, which was held as a 165-pound catchweight, was only possible because Ige was already scheduled to fight in Las Vegas in three weeks. Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Jeff Mullen told ESPN that Ige's medicals being up to date in the system allowed the body to legally approve the bout.

It's hard to think of a fight set up at a later minute in UFC history. Ige told ESPN he was getting a massage when he started getting calls from UFC executive Hunter Campbell, manager Ali Abdelaziz and more

"Eight weeks, six weeks, four weeks, four hours. It doesn’t matter. This is what I live for. This is my dream. I get to wake up and do what I love. I was literally getting a massage and I had a call from Hunter, Ali and a bunch of people. They say ‘Hey, do you want to fight tonight?’ I was like ‘Man, this is an opportunity to become a legend.’ This is a story that I want to tell my grandkids.

"I couldn’t be happier with my performance."

The loss can hardly be held against Ige, who likely earned as many points with UFC president Dana White as you possibly can just by showing up to the arena. The gate for the event was $15.9 million, fourth-highest in UFC history.

The experience was no easy journey for Lopes either, who was initially supposed to face Ortega in a featherweight bout before the veteran requested it be moved up to lightweight. Then a new opponent stepped in and made it 165. Just like Ige, Lopes said the chaos didn't matter through an interpreter:

"Whomever, whenever, however, it doesn’t matter. I’ll fight anybody. I thought ‘Hey, 145.’ Then I got the news at 4 o’clock in the morning ’It’s going to be 155.’ And then today, 4 p.m., I found out that this fight was changing. It doesn’t matter."

Now, both fighters have maximum brownie points with the UFC, and both said they wanted to use them to join the UFC 306 card at The Sphere in September.

Withdrawals were a recurring theme for UFC 303. The card was initially announced with a main event featuring Conor McGregor's return to the Octagon against Michael Chandler, with a co-main event between former light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill and Khalil Rountree Jr.

A tainted supplement caused Rountree to withdraw from the co-main, with Carlos Ulberg stepping in as a replacement. Then McGregor and Hill both had to withdraw with injuries, leaving the UFC to scramble. The end result was a new main event between light heavyweight champ Alex Pereira and former champ Jiří Procházka and the co-main between Lopes and Ortega.

Ulberg was left to face Anthony Smith, until Ulberg too withdrew and was replaced by Roman Dolidze. So the top three fights on the card have now seen a total of six withdrawals.

And that's not even the end of it, as fights between Gillian Robertson and Michelle Waterson-Gomez, Cody Durden and Carlos Hernandez, and Andrei Arlovski and Martin Buday were all scheduled and subsequently postponed or altered.

Long story short, it was a busy few weeks for White, who also had to deal with Khamzat Chimaev withdrawing from his bout against Robert Whittaker the previous week. Whittaker made short work of replacement Ikram Aliskerov.