Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the UFC has just lost a main event due to COVID-19.
Okay you can’t really stop me anyway because I’m still going to finish this article, but the bad news continues to pour in. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported on Tuesday that welterweight contender Leon Edwards has tested positive for COVID-19, which means his December 19th main event vs. Khamzat Chimaev is now off. Helwani noted that the UFC will look to rebook the fight in 2021. This news comes just days after Chimaev reportedly tested positive for the virus, but Khamzat’s team says that it wasn’t true.
Edwards (18-3) has not fought since beating Rafael dos Anjos in July 2019 to extend his winning streak to eight. It’s been a difficult 2020 for “Rocky,” as you may recall the start of the COVID-19 pandemic nixed his main event vs. Tyron Woodley back in March. He was briefly removed from the UFC rankings, only to re-appear when the Chimaev fight was accepted.
Chimaev (9-0) is no doubt on the UFC’s shortlist of next potential superstars. The 26-year-old debuted in July and has scarcely been hit in his three stoppage wins over John Phillips, Rhys McKee, and Gerald Meerscahert. While that’s not exactly a fearsome trio of opponents, he dominated all of them with ridiculous ease and as such the UFC has given him the big push and vaulted him straight towards welterweight title contention. We’ll just have to wait a little longer to see if he really is ready for that level of opposition.
If there’s any good news about UFC Vegas 17, it’s that there are so many compelling matchups that the loss of the original headliner won’t be a hammer blow to what should be an excellent way to wrap up the UFC’s 2020 schedule. Stephen Thompson vs. Geoff Neal was tentatively slotted as the co-main event, but you wonder if that fight will get the logical bump up to main event status.