Dan Ige drops close decision at UFC 303 hours after being called in to replace an ill fighter


LAS VEGAS — An illness forced Brian Ortega to withdraw Saturday hours before his scheduled fight with Diego Lopes in the co-main event at UFC 303, and Dan Ige was called in as a replacement and narrowly lost by decision.

All three judges scored the fight 29-28 in favor Lopes (25-6).

“I’ve said before whoever, wherever, I’ll fight anybody,” Lopes, a Brazilian, said through an interpreter.

Ige (18-8) received a loud ovation from the crowd after his loss for his willingness to step in on short notice.

“I was like, ‘Man, this an opportunity to become a legend,’” Ige said. “This is a story I will tell my grandkids. I’d love to (have won), but man I couldn’t be happier.”

UFC President Dana White said before the bout that it likely would have been called off if Ige hadn’t been available.

“There would have been no other options,” White said.

The match is the warm-up bout to the main event between light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira and top-ranked challenger Jiri Prochazka.

White said Ortega was running a fever and wasn’t ready to go on. Ige, who is from Honolulu but trains in Las Vegas, already was in town preparing for another fight.

“It’s all about opportunity,” White said. “He jumped at it. Who’s hotter than Lopes right now?”

White joked that Ige likely was sitting on his couch about to order the pay-per-view when he got the call.

Jeff Mullen, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, told ESPN that because Ige fought Feb. 10 in Las Vegas, that made the process smoother to get him approved.

“We already had his medicals and all his requirements completed,” Mullen said. “It was a perfectly approved matchup. I checked with the attorneys to make sure everything was in order.”

The Ortega-Lopes fight itself was a replacement for a previously scheduled bout. Jamahal Hill had to ask out of his match against Carlos Ulberg because a knee injury in training.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports



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