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Ian Machado Garry to Fight MVP at UFC 303

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s in-depth look at MMA. Every week this column provides insight and information about the most remarkable stories from the fighting world.

Ian Machado Garry is looking to start UFC 303 on an explosive note.

There’s only one problem. Garry isn’t sure his opponent, Michael “Venom” Page, will agree.

“I see this fight going two ways, and it’s all on MVP’s shoulders,” Garry said. “He can give fans the best, most exciting fight, or he can rock the boat and disappoint everyone. I’m going to show up and strike.

“MVP is either going to completely separate the distance, dance for 15 minutes, scrape to land a few jabs and try to win by decision – or he’s going to try to prove he’s the better striker. I don’t know if he wants to do that against someone younger, faster and more technically skilled. Will he take that risk? I’m almost sure he’ll be super careful and make the fans angry. But we have a chance to go there and have the best fight of the night. If he goes down, I’ll see him in the Octagon.”

Ian Machado Garry

Ian Machado Garry/Zuffa

Garry (14-0) is likely two wins away from a fight for the welterweight title. The 26-year-old Irish fighter defeated Geoff Neal via split decision at UFC 298 in February and now he has set his sights on Page (22-2), the longtime Bellator star.

Page, 37, defeated Kevin Holland by unanimous decision in March at UFC 299, marking his Octagon debut. A win would further Garry’s title shot, while a loss would be detrimental. Page is highly respected in the sport, but he has never been able to win gold in Bellator.

If Garry wins, he could move up the rankings by fighting someone like Colby Covington, even though Covington doesn’t seem interested in that fight.

“I have a lot of things that people worry about and fear,” Garry said. “I’m only 26. I’m young, I’m hungry, I’m undefeated and I’m insanely talented. People see that and they’re afraid of that. That’s why the top guys in the division don’t want to fight me. They know how dangerous it will be for them if they take the fight.

“There’s a lot that needs to happen in the division. Will we see Kamaru Usman back in the welterweight division? What happens to Leon (Edwards) and Belal (Mohammed)? Will Colby keep running? What about Jack (Della Maddalena) and Shavkat (Rakhmonov)? All I know is I’m going to go out there on Saturday and get my hand up, stay undefeated and be ready for whatever comes next.”

Even with a win, Garry’s plans for UFC 303 won’t all come to fruition. He wanted to fight on the same card as Conor McGregor, which seemed to be the case until McGregor had to drop out in his 303 fight against Michael Chandler.

“Of course I’m disappointed, Conor is the greatest showman in the history of the UFC,” said Garry. “He’s the guy who draws the most attention, and he’s the biggest draw and the biggest star in a long, long time. But there’s no one more upset than the guy who should have been fighting in the first place. I know that man is a warrior, and I know it will really bother him that he won’t fight. I can’t wait to see him again. I’m glad to see the Mac back. If it happens I want to be on the same card as him and represent Ireland.”

Before a victory party in Dublin, Garry has a tough task ahead of him. Page is smart in the way he fights, and it is unlikely that he will be attracted to Garry’s style.

“Me and MVP have a chance to put on one of the greatest flashy displays in UFC history,” Garry said. “Let’s go out there and see who’s better.”

Michael Chandler challenged Conor McGregor in November 2022.

Michael Chandler kicks Tony Ferguson

Michael Chandler kicks Tony Ferguson/Zuffa

The two came to a collision course last spring when the two coaches of The ultimate fighterTheir highly anticipated fight was set to headline UFC 303, making Las Vegas the fight capital of the world.

Then the hints and omens became reality and McGregor walked out of the fight. What is the best course of action for Chandler now?

Why not wait a little longer at this point?

Chandler has been building his entire career toward a moment like this. He’s had some incredible moments in Bellator, but it’s often overlooked because it didn’t happen in the UFC. Now he’s on the cusp of that career-changing moment, and it would be a shock if he didn’t wait until at least the end of the year to fight McGregor.

Chandler has come so far. He can’t stop now.