Leon Edwards has his spot in the welterweight rankings back. The only price he had to pay, it seems, is taking a fight with rising UFC star Khamzat Chimaev. Dana White announced the news of the Edwards vs. Chimaev booking during a recent interview on CBS Sports’ Jim Rome Show.
“So, we just got a deal done yesterday, for Leon Edwards vs. Chimaev,” White revealed, when asked when fans could expect to see ‘Borz’ back in the cage again. “They will fight; it will be a great fight. And yeah, he can stop calling everybody out on Twitter now. He’s got an opponent.”
As for when and where the bout will take place, White wasn’t sure of the particulars, telling Rome, “I don’t know yet, I’ll figure that out when I get home.” But, ESPN has since reported that the bout will take place on December 19th, serving as the headliner for the planned Fight Night event in Las Vegas.
The UFC president went on to spend some time building Chimaev up to fans who may not have seen him compete yet, noting his impressive string of finishes in the Octagon as well as the quick turnaround he made between each bout.
“This guy had 30,000 followers in his first fight, he has almost a million followers now,” White enthused. “This kid is one fight away from being a massive superstar. If he can beat Leon Edwards, he’s gonna be a massive superstar in the UFC.”
For Edwards, this bout announcement marks the end of several months of seemingly stalled negotiations between the welterweight top contender and the world’s largest MMA promotion. After having a bout against Tyron Woodley fall apart during the COVID-19 pandemic, Edwards reportedly declined short notice fights against Usman and Covington. He also turned down a bout with Geoff Neal, and a previous offer to fight Chimaev. Edwards, explained his disinterest in fighting opponents lower down the division recently, noting that he only wanted a top-4 fighter.
“For me to get to the world title, which is my aim and my dream, is to beat one of those top-four [guys],” Edwards explained back in early October. “I have to fight someone in the top-four to get my title shot.”
However, the UFC made ‘Rocky’’s negotiating position much more clear earlier this week when they knocked Edwards off their rankings list citing inactivity. If his hope was to leverage his position for a title contender’s bout, that chance was clearly no longer on the table.
Just a few days later, though, and here we are. Edwards is back in the rankings and Chimaev has his booking. And the rest of the roster has a firsthand lesson about trying to play chicken with the UFC machine.