2023 has been a pivotal year for the UFC. From Dana White kicking it off being caught on tape slapping his wife last New Year’s Eve in Mexico, only to parlay that into promoting his new Power Slap League every chance he gets. To Endeavor, the UFC’s parent company, buying the WWE and recently merging the two together to form the newly founded TKO Group. It’s been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for the promotional leader in mixed martial arts.
However, despite any roadblocks they might have encountered this year, the continued success and growth of the UFC is undeniable. According to a recent report from Bloody Elbow’s John S. Nash, the company’s total revenue in the first half of 2023 has increased 16% from where it was in same time period in 2022.
The UFC brand has never been stronger or had as much attention on it as it does now, but with 2024 on the horizon for the promotion, an uncertainty hovers over on if they will fully deliver on the kind of card fans expect from the marquee 300th event anticipated to take place in the first quarter of the new year.
Could the UFC’s lack of stars be a problem for UFC 300?
While Dana White and Ari Emanuel can count up the billions they continue to make from the UFC, like some Scrooge McDuck evil cartoon characters, the reality is that the promotion is in a far different place than it was when UFC 100 or 200 took place. With the increasing amount of watered down fight night cards being held at the UFC Apex becoming the new norm, combined with an overall lack of depth in terms of star power across the roster, the potential for UFC 300 to be lackluster could be far greater than most realize.
Back in July 2009, they had both Brock Lesnar and Georges St-Pierre to build the UFC 100 card around. In July 2016, they had the Conor McGregor-Nate Diaz and Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier rivalries to fall back on for UFC 200 (although both fights fell through eventually). For UFC 300 next year, there isn’t a definitive superstar or safety parachute to pull for them, to build the event around in my opinion. They don’t have the plethora of stars who have the commercial appeal to headline a card of this magnitude, or to possibly save them from another UFC 200-type debacle.
That’s why they can’t afford any hiccups when building this UFC 300 card. It’s also the main conundrum in trying to pinpoint who will actually be competing on the momentous night next year. There isn’t really any one fighter or fight currently, who would be an absolute lock for the event. The UFC is enjoying the most financial success since its existence, but they’re also in a clear transition period. Especially when it comes to finding a new face of the promotion for this new generation of fans.
The following list are some of the fights and fighters that I’d personally like to see on UFC 300. Specifically as either headlining or co-headlining bouts. I tried to keep my choices as realistic as possible, while also taking it account some of the factors I mentioned above.
Potential UFC 300 Main Events & Co-Main Events
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz Trilogy
This one seems like a no-brainer for a plethora of reasons. Not only are both stars aging and no longer title contenders, making the timing perfect for this matchup. But you’ve got the built-in story of how this could be the makeup of their rematch not happening back at UFC 200.
Plus, after Diaz became a free agent in September 2022 and tested the boxing waters against Jake Paul, he’s constantly teased an eventual return to the promotion. Add in that McGregor has been chomping at the bit to return and the two recently got into a Twitter spat, everything points to this being a perfect candidate to be at the top of the bill for UFC 300.
Sean Strickland vs. Israel Adesanya Rematch
I’m putting this fight on here, based off White saying the company would look to book an immediate rematch following Sean Strickland‘s win at UFC 293 earlier this month. I also think they will wait for Adesanya to take however much time he needs to return.
A potential title fight between Strickland and top contender, Dricus Du Plessis, could be booked if the UFC gets tired of waiting on Izzy. But I don’t believe there is enough commercial appeal for a Strickland-DDP fight for that to happen, only helping the former champ’s immediate rematch chances. Capitalizing on the first meeting being one of the biggest upsets in the sports history, as well as Strickland being the voice of much of the modern MMA fan base, makes too much sense to me.
Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate Trilogy
I get the chances of this are highly unlikely. It doesn’t help either that Uncle Dana recently responded to the rumors that Rousey was eyeing a return to the Octagon at UFC 300, calling it a “crock of shit.”
I’ve learned in my time watching and covering this sport though, to never trust anything White says fully. So that alone, alongside the promotion’s new partnership with the WWE, leaves the door much more open for Rousey’s Octagon return than Dana is leading people to believe.
Why the time could be now for Rousey to comeback to the UFC?
Let’s not kid ourselves either, the current state of the women’s bantamweight division has to be enticing to Rousey. This division is lifeless at the moment in terms of fan interest. With Amanda Nunes retiring this summer, a vacant title, and no clear cut contenders to fight for it, the opportunity couldn’t be better for the 36-year old to make a comeback. It’s also a chance at redemption for Ronda. Her exit from the sport after getting viciously knocked out in under a minute by Nunes at UFC 207 in December 2016, was an ugly one.
There might be no better way to remove the stain of that entire fight week from her legacy, than to comeback at UFC 300, and become champion for a second time. The UFC once again is in desperate need for star power. Rousey would be an immediate remedy for that and the injection of excitement that the UFC 300 card might need.
The perfect opponent for Rousey’s potential return is staring the company square in the face as well. One of her biggest rivals and former UFC women’s bantamweight champion, Miesha Tate, would be the ideal dance partner. The timing works great too as Tate is expected to compete against, Julia Avila, at a yet-to-be-announced UFC Fight Night event on December 2 according to MMA Mania. If she’s able to defeat Avila, it would set the timetable up for a Rousey booking at UFC 300 next April or May seamlessly.
As I mentioned earlier, the UFC doesn’t really have that so called safety lever to pull right now. But one might be served on a silver platter to them in the form of a Rousey-Tate III meeting at UFC 300. The fact that the pair’s rematch at UFC 168 back in December 2013 did over 1,000,000 pay-per-view buys, only strengthens the case for a possible third matchup.
Leon Edwards/Colby Covington Winner vs. Belal Muhammad
This is yet another potential fight that makes almost too much sense to me, from a timing perspective. With the promotion revealing that Edwards will make his next title defense against Covington in the main event of UFC 296 on December 16, the timeline sets up pretty clearly for the winner to take on Muhammad at UFC 300 in the first quarter of 2024.
The 35-year old Chicago, Illinois native also has built-in rivalries with both Edwards and Covington. Whether it’s the accidental eye poke that ruled his first fight with Edwards a no contest back in March 2021, or the vitriol he and Covington have for one another, either narrative sells itself. This one should be a no brainer.
Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler
Although the UFC has teased McGregor’s return ad nauseum this year, the chances of the Irishman fighting in 2023 get bleaker by the day. I’m never too sure what to believe when it comes to Conor. Between his routinely bizarre posts on social media and constantly blaming USADA from preventing him from competing, I view McGregor as the Joker in some sense. He’s just become an unreliable narrator at this point on anything.
But if he’s going to eventually comeback, the bout with Michael Chandler has the most realistic shot of happening. They took an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter that aired on ESPN to build the fight. I’ve got to believe the casual fan appeal is still heavy for this one. The matchup would be a welcomed addition to any UFC 300 lineup and provide the event with star power, plus an expected all-action fight.
Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera Rematch/Merab Dvalishvili
I was surprised to see new UFC bantamweight champ, “Suga” Sean O’Malley, left off the promotion’s final quarter slate of events for 2023. As the company looks for their next cash cow to build around, O’Malley clearly is one of the rare few who connects with the newer generation of fans. If Gen-Z needed a fighter to represent them, he’s it.
So since they didn’t book him for UFC 295 or UFC 296, O’Malley is a prime target to possibly headline UFC 300. I don’t know if that’s the kind of layoff Sean wants take, which could play a factor. But between his callouts of various boxing champions on X/Twitter every other week, I’m also not sure it’s something he’s opposed to doing.
He’s requested several times that his first title defense should be a rematch against, Marlon “Chito” Vera. But it remains to be seen if the UFC would grant O’Malley’s wish, in favor of giving number one contender, Merab Dvalishvili, his long awaited title shot. Either matchup would be more than serviceable as a featured bout on such a monumental event.
The pre-fight banter from Sean and Chito alone should generate tremendous buzz for any rematch. Dvalishvili stealing his jacket at UFC 288 to O’Malley knocking out one of Merab’s closest friends and training partners in former champ, Aljamain Sterling, gives the UFC an immense amount of material to work with to promote that matchup too. The Suga Show could be in full effect come UFC 300 fight week.
What matchups do you want to see on UFC 300? Let us know in the comments below.