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It appears that the Ultimate Fighting Championship got what it wanted from Leon Edwards after all.
On Friday, UFC President Dana White appeared on the Jim Rome Show to announce that Edwards (18-3) has been booked against Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) to headline the Dec. 19 UFC Fight Night card. The two welterweights – Chimaev will be returning to 170 pounds for this bout – will face one another in Las Vegas at the UFC Apex. Additional confirmation of the headlining nature of the matchup came from ESPN.
“So we just got a deal done yesterday for Leon Edwards vs. Chimaev," White exclaimed. "They will fight, it will be a great fight, and…[Chimaev] can stop calling everybody out on Twitter now. He’s got an opponent.” White continued, “If he can beat Leon Edwards, he’s gonna be massive superstar in the UFC.”
Edwards was pulled from the rankings on Thursday, in a much-ridiculed move that saw Edwards publicly respond to the allegations of inactivity. Despite that multiple fighters were currently still ranked despite having fought longer ago than Edwards, the UFC decided to pull him. One day later, after the news of this pairing came to light, Edwards is now back as the #3 ranked welterweight on the UFC rankings.
When learning of the rankings news on Thursday, Edwards posted on Twitter, “I’m still in the rankings. F--- all the inactivity, the only reason I haven’t fought is because all these so called top guys turned me down. Khamzat want to fight then?” Chimaev replied minutes later that he was interested in fighting Edwards, writing, “I’m always ready to fight. Let’s go. Rock’n’roll baby.”
“Rocky” has put together an incredible win streak inside the Octagon since losing to current champ Kamaru Usman in 2015. Winner of eight consecutive bouts including names like Donald Cerrone, Vicente Luque and Rafael dos Anjos, Edwards nearly received a title shot on short notice against Usman but he could not take the match due to the coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions. For various reasons, the Brit has not set foot in the cage since July 2019, although a pairing against Tyron Woodley in March was scuttled due to COVID-19.
Chimaev is currently unranked on the UFC roster, and he sports just one UFC win at 170 pounds over former lightweight and newcomer Rhys McKee, where the latter took the fight on short notice. Ranked as the #148 welterweight on FightMatrix, he will be taking a tremendous step up in competition as he takes on #6 Edwards. Undefeated as a professional, Chimaev has finished all nine opponents inside the distance. "Borz" last appeared in September, where he separated Gerald Meerschaert from his consciousness in 17 seconds at middleweight.