UFC 303 set for June 29 during International Fight Week

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC’s International Fight Week has its marquee event.

On Saturday, the promotion officially announced via press release that UFC 303 is scheduled to take place on June 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as part of its 12th Annual International Fight Week. The festivities also include this year’s UFC Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the two-day UFC X fan event, which takes place on June 28 and June 29.

No fights have been made official for UFC 303, though one major name was tentatively tied to the pay-per-view event.

Former featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor recently announced that he would take on longtime rival Michael Chandler in a middleweight bout on June 29, but according to Chandler and UFC CEO Dana White, that date was never set in stone and plans for McGregor remain in limbo. White has said he hopes McGregor will fight before the end of the year, possibly in the fall.

This is the second UFC pay-per-view scheduled to take place in June, with UFC 302 set for Prudential Center in Newark, N.J on June 1. The promotion also heads to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a Fight Night event one week before UFC 303.

Randy Couture wishes Sean Strickland could pursue Jake Paul fight but UFC ‘never going to let that happen’

UFC 297: Strickland v Du Plessis
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Sean Strickland would love the opportunity to face Jake Paul in the boxing ring, but it seems highly unlikely that will ever happen — at least not while he’s under UFC contract.

The former middleweight champion got into a war of words with Paul recently following a sparring match where he battered a social influencer named Sneako, which caught the attention of the 8-1 boxer. Paul made a $1 million offer to fly Strickland down to his training camp in Puerto Rico for a fight, but that idea was shot down rather quickly.

Strickland claimed he asked the UFC for permission to accept the challenge but that UFC chief business officer Hunter Campbell shot him down, and added that Paul “sells no fights.”

UFC legend Randy Couture, who has often butted heads with his former employer, wishes that the promotion would at least entertain the idea about the matchup, but he knows even with potential financial gain on the line, it’s highly unlikely they’d sign off on the deal.

“Probably not,” Couture told MMA Fighting about the UFC allowing Strickland to fight Paul. “It depends. If Sean Strickland took the tactic like Conor McGregor did and brought them in to benefit and make money off this endeavor, maybe there’s a negotiation to be had. I think your assessment is probably accurate, they’re probably never going to let that happen.”

The UFC served as a promoter alongside McGregor back in 2017 when he fought Floyd Mayweather in one of the biggest boxing pay-per-views of all-time. It’s doubtful that Strickland and Paul could pull anywhere near those types of numbers, but it’s still a fight people would pay to see.

As far as the matchup goes, Couture cautions Strickland that despite his vast overall experience advantage in combat sports, Paul has proven to be a capable boxer through the first nine fights of his career.

Now if Strickland was allowed to endure a full training camp where he only focused on boxing rather than MMA, Couture expects that would definitely even up the score.

“I think Jake has shown he has skills, that he can back up the rhetoric and the talk,” Couture said. “Obviously, he’s beaten some very, very good guys. I think Sean Strickland has a very strong striking background. He brings that to every single MMA match. We saw what he did against [Israel] Adesanya and the way he solved the problem there. Give him time to have a good, full camp in boxing, and I think he would do very, very well against Jake Paul.

“It would be a very interesting matchup. Jake’s maybe a little bigger, maybe a little stronger, but I think they’re very similar in size. Whereas Nate Diaz, in my opinion, wasn’t big enough. He didn’t have the ass, frankly, to bring the power to match Jake Paul in the matchup. I kind of thought Anderson Silva would do better against Jake Paul because he’s got a very strong striking background as well.”

Couture commends Paul for backing up everything he says in the ring, which has led to him becoming one of the most talked about names in combat sports, whether anybody likes it or not.

That being said, Couture would love to see Strickland get the chance to land that fight — and earn a hefty seven-figure payday in the process.

“You can’t take away anything from Jake Paul and what he’s doing in the ring,” Couture said. “Strickland has earned his right to be here. I think it would be an interesting matchup and a lot of eyeballs would tune into watching those two get after it.”

Couture also addressed the sparring session between Strickland and the social influencer, which took place in the same gym that bears Couture’s name in Las Vegas.

Paul blasted Strickland for beating up an inexperienced opponent, but also took a shot at the former UFC champion for hammering away with punches but not actually earning a knockdown during the session.

For his part, Couture defended Strickland’s decision to engage in the sparring match and he saw nothing wrong with the way everything unfolded.

“This kid that [Strickland] beat up, I don’t even know who this kid was but he talks a lot of smack and that’s something Jake is familiar with,” Couture said. “I thought that was a justified beating in the boxing ring. He wasn’t teeing off on him, and Jake’s criticism was, ‘You couldn’t even knock down a guy that isn’t a fighter.’ I don’t think Strickland was trying to knock him down.

“If he wanted to knock him out or knock him down, I think he would have. I think he was teaching him a lesson and dragging it out as long as he needed to, to get the point across. That’s how I saw that whole thing.”

UFC targeting St. Louis as destination for upcoming card on May 11

Enterprise Center
Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

The UFC will head back to the road again for more shows in 2024, with the upcoming UFC Fight Night card on May 11 targeted for a return to St. Louis.

Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans confirmed St. Louis as the destination for the May event, although the UFC hasn’t made anything official just yet. Marcell Dorff first reported the location for the card on Twitter.

If the card is finalized for St. Louis, it would be the first time that the UFC has taken a card to the Missouri city since 2018, when Jeremy Stephens knocked out Doo-ho Choi in the main event. The event would most likely take place at the Enterprise Center, previously known as the Scottrade Center, the home of the St. Louis Blues in the NHL.

Since end of the global pandemic, the UFC has started traveling to more and more locations for Fight Night cards while still promoting a number of events each year at the UFC APEX. So far in 2024, outside of pay-per-view events, the UFC has traveled to Mexico City for a Fight Night card, and the promotion will land in Atlantic City, N.J. on March 30.

There’s also a planned card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 22, as well as the UFC taking a card to The Sphere in Las Vegas for Mexican Independence Day in September.

There are several rumored fights expected for the May 11 card, including Terrance McKinney returning for a matchup against Esteban Ribovics, and Carlos Ulberg taking on Alonzo Menifield, although no main event has been confirmed yet.

Video: UFC champ Ilia Topuria honored at Real Madrid game with special kickoff after winning title 

Real Madrid v Sevilla - LaLiga EA Sports
Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Featherweight champion Ilia Topuria was celebrated at the Real Madrid soccer match on Sunday after he became the first fighter from Spain to capture a UFC title.

Just over a week after he knocked out Alexander Volkanovski to win the 145-pound title, Topuria was honored at the game inside the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid with a packed house in attendance for the match between Real Madrid and Sevilla.

Topuria walked out with the UFC title on his shoulder as he met with the players on the pitch before conducting the honorary kickoff to start the game.

It’s the latest recognition that Topuria’s star power only continues to grow in the wake of his victory over Volkanovski to become champion. With a perfect 15-0 record with 13 finishes along the way, Topuria appears primed to become one of the UFC’s next major superstars.

If the celebration at the Real Madrid game on Sunday wasn’t enough, Topuria may receive an even more raucous reception for his first title defense.

On Saturday night just after the UFC Mexico City card ended, UFC CEO Dana White confirmed plans for the promotion to take a card to Spain sooner rather than later.

“I would love to go to Spain so we’ve got to figure that out,” White said. “We’ll start grinding and try to make that happen but the answer is yes, I want to do that and I want to do that this year.”

That’s probably welcome news for Topuria, especially after the reception he received at the Real Madrid game. Now it’s possible he’ll get the chance to return home to Spain again for his first title defense later this year.

Video: Jacobe Smith follows 18-second knockout with unhinged celebration

Jacobe Smith | @UFCFightPass, Twitter

Jacobe Smith’s quick work in the cage gave him plenty of time to play afterwards.

At Fury FC 86 in Dallas on Saturday, Smith scored a thudding 18-second knockout of Jared McLoughlin and then unleashed one of the most insane celebrations of 2024.

Watch the fight in its entirety below.

To summarize:

  • Smith cracked McLoughlin with a right hand and then nailed him with a follow-up punch to finish the fight
  • Smith then proceeds to get some air and do a full-force flop onto his back
  • Smith continues to tumble, doing a full 360 roll on the ground before exploding into a cartwheel that nearly takes out a Fury FC staff member
  • back flip
  • chest bump the cage
  • jog to the other side and hop onto the cage for more theatrics

Incredible.

In a follow-up interview, Smith explained his unhinged post-fight antics.

“First off, I threw two punches and literally both landed, so I didn’t do nothing else the whole fight,” Smith said. “I’m like, ‘It’s over?’ So I stand up and I’m like, ‘This can’t be it. That s*** was wack.’ So I jump up to do a back flip and I didn’t have my grips under me, so I got the push off but I didn’t get the grip to get the rotation going. So I was just like, ‘F*** it, you’ve done this before, just make sure you don’t land on your neck’ and went all back into it.

“Once I hit, I started moving. I just kept moving. I was like, just keep it going, just put on some kind of a show, get the audience tuned in and give them more than 18 seconds because I know they’re going to be pissed off about that a little bit.”

If Smith is worried about quick finishes putting people off, he may want to slow down his current pace. The 8-0 welterweight was coming off of a 61-second knockout win this past September and he already has six first-round KOs on his résumé.