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Scratched! UFC 287 loses marquee matchup after promotion fails to secure late replacement

UFC Fight Night: Chiesa v Lee Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Michael Chiesa was expected to battle fellow welterweight bruiser Jingliang Li as part of the upcoming UFC 287 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Miami; however, “The Leech” was pulled off the card after suffering a spinal injury (more on that here). The 35 year-old “Maverick” says there was talk of keeping him in the April 8 lineup pending a potential replacement but matchmakers were unable to lock down a new opponent.

LIVE! Watch UFC 288 PPV On ESPN+ Here!

BLOCKBUSTER BANTAMWEIGHT BATTLE! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Newark, N.J., for the first time in more than three years on Sat., May 6, 2023, with a blockbuster Bantamweight collision inside Prudential Center that will see Aljamain Sterling attempt another successful title defense against returning two-division titleholder and former gold medal-winning Olympic wrestler, Henry Cejudo. In UFC 288’s last-minute pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, former Welterweight title challenger, Gilbert Burns, locks horns with No. 4-seeded contender, Belal Muhammad, in a five-round, 170-pound No. 1 contender eliminator match.

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“I’m not going to name names of the guys who were offered who turned it down, because it was a matter of visa issues and some guys not being able to make weight,” Chiesa told The MMA Hour. “I’m not that type of guy to go out there and blast, like, ‘So-and-so turned it down.’ Look, I’m a tough out for anybody at 170 pounds, especially if you only have a couple of weeks to prepare. Niko Price was lobbying hard to get the fight, so I want to give him his flowers. That guy was ready and willing to jump in, but I think the UFC had other plans for him.”

Check out the revised UFC 287 fight card and ESPN+ lineup right here.

The severity of Li’s injury left “The Leech” benched until further notice which has the 16-6 “Maverick” setting his sights on a new opponent. At the top of his wish list is a 170-pound showdown against submission specialist Gunnar Nelson, who returned to the Octagon with a first-round finish over Bryan Barberena at UFC 286 last month in London.

“I want ‘Leech’ to recover,” Chiesa continued. “Hopefully him and I can do it down the road. There’s one guy I kind of think we have in mind and I have in mind, too. I’d love a fight with Gunnar Nelson. I think he’s a tremendous competitor. I think styles make fights. I know he’s available and I think that he’s interested as well, so hopefully we can get something moving in that direction. I’d even be willing to go across the pond and fight him in England in July. I’ve never done the whole ‘go into enemy territory’ thing, so I think that’d be a fun challenge.”

Somewhere in “Motown,” a “Phenom” weeps.

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