UFC 303’s Dan Ige recounts taking same-day bout vs. Diego Lopes: ‘In a way, it felt like I won’

Dan Ige had one hell of a weekend as he partook in one of the UFC’s craziest pulls in modern history.

This past Saturday, Ige co-headlined UFC 303 in Las Vegas – an event that served as the crown jewel of the prestigious UFC International Fight Week. Although that is an honor for many fighters, what made it crazy and unique is that he wasn’t supposed to fight on the card, and was summoned hours before the co-main event, after the card had already started.

That’s right. With just four hours’ notice, Ige (18-8 MMA, 10-7 UFC) ended up fighting dangerous contender Diego Lopes (24-6 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 303. It was a hectic and chaotic turn of events for Ige, and ironically enough, he was in “full-on zen mode” and listening to spa music when it all went down.

“My massage therapist was at my house, she worked on my whole family, I was the last one,” Ige told MMA Junkie Radio, recalling the moment he got the call to fight Lopes. “I got on the table around 3 p.m. I had an hour and a half booked, and I had no clue I’d be fighting.

“I was just getting ready for Monday, recovering and getting ready for Sunday and then Monday because I was getting ready for a fight (on July 20), so I was just getting my body right.”

As Ige was getting his body worked on, his manager and UFC brass were scrambling to get him. He was the ideal option to replace an ill Brian Ortega, who was supposed to fight Lopes in the card’s co-main event. Ige was training and had a fight booked in Las Vegas, so he had all his medical paperwork done and lives in town.

“My phone was on do not disturb, and my wife comes upstairs because she was getting calls from Ali (Abdelaziz) and my mom was calling saying, ‘Hey, Ali is calling,'” Ige said. “Finally, I grabbed my phone. Ten missed calls – Ali, Hunter Campbell. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’

“As I’m trying to look who called me, Ali’s calling again, so I answered. I was like, ‘Hey, what’s going on brother? Sorry, I’m getting a massage.’ He was like, ‘Brother, brother. Ortega is out.’ I’m like, ‘OK, cool.’ He’s like, ‘Brother, you want to fight Lopes?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure. Let’s go.'”

Ige, who was supposed to fight Chepe Mariscal on July 20 at a UFC Fight Night event at the Apex, thought he was getting the call to fight Lopes at a later date, thinking Lopes’ fight with Ortega had been canceled. But as we know now, Ige’s manager meant fighting Lopes in a few hours at UFC 303.

“I’m like, ‘What? That’s not even possible,'” Ige said when he realized they were asking him to fight in a few hours’ time. “Anyway, I’m starting to get excited. So I’m like, ‘Yeah, let’s go! Let’s go!’ He’s like, ‘Brother, you want me to get a deal done?’ I’m like, ‘Whatever that means, sure. Let’s go.’ So he said, ‘OK, I’ll call you back.’ So, I’m like, that was weird.”

Abdelaziz told Ige to pack his bag and head over to the T-Mobile Arena, as his fight with Lopes was likely going to happen. Some details needed to be addressed, but Abdelaziz told him it was 80 percent done.

“I’m running around my house like, what do I need?” Ige said. “I’m trying to drink water, trying to eat something because if I’m going to fight, I need to be fueled. I had some yogurt and granola, some honey. I had a coffee, I had some supplemental carbs. I’m literally running around my house, frantically excited and just grabbing random things.”

Ige called his head coach, Eric Nicksick, who was already at the arena to corner Roman Dolidze and told him what was happening. Nicksick asked no questions and quickly assembled a last-minute corner, calling PFL’s Kai Kamaka III and former UFC champion Sean Strickland.

Abdelaziz then picked up Ige and took him to the arena.

“I’m walking in, they take me to this VIP room, there’s famous people in there: Mark Wahlberg, Jellyroll, Dana (White), Hunter (Campbell),” Ige said. “I say what’s up and boom, they take me to the scale.

“I didn’t know I actually had to weigh in. I didn’t read the bout agreement. They sent me the bout agreement, and I was like, ‘Oh, sweet. The money is there. I’m getting good money.’ That’s all I looked at. I didn’t know there was an actual weight class – 165.”

Luckily for Ige, he was on weight as 165 pounds is his walk-round weight in camp and weighed in no problem. Lopes was also weighed in at 161 pounds, making their co-main event bout official.

Next thing you know, Ige is getting his hands wrapped and was an hour and a half away from co-headlining one of the promotion’s most important card of the year in front of 20,000 fans.

Ige went on to lose a 29-28 unanimous decision, but put on an admiral effort in the process. Although an official loss on his record, Ige was happy with the experience and that he showed the MMA world that he’s indeed about that life.

“For no game planning, nothing, just going out there and having fun and fighting, I thought I did pretty well,” Ige said. “In a way, it felt like I won. I won a lot of notoriety, I won fans, I got UFC favor, and it feels good. You don’t normally feel like this after a loss on a Tuesday, but the amount of just love and respect that I got from people, fans, the media, here we are, man. What a fricking wild night.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie