After UFC rankings drama, Leon Edwards to face rising star Khamzat Chimaev on Dec. 19

Jack Baer
·Writer
·3-min read

It took a little bit of jostling, but the fight between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev appears to be officially on.

The No. 3 UFC welterweight contender and the promotion’s newest sensation will face each other later this year, UFC president Dana White said on “The Jim Rome Show” on Friday. The fight will be the main event on Dec. 19, per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani.

The bout will be Edwards’ first since he topped Rafael dos Anjos in July 2019, his eighth straight win. For Chimaev, it will be his fourth bout in just five months, and his first-ever main event.

Leon Edwards returns to Octagon after reported UFC push

This will be Edwards’ first UFC fight in 17 months, but not for lack of trying from the promotion.

Per Helwani, tensions had been rising between the fighter and the UFC, to the point that Edwards was removed from the UFC’s official rankings on Thursday. Since the fight was announced, he has been restored to his No. 3 position.

Edwards had previously been slated to face former welterweight champ Tyron Woodley in March, until the coronavirus pandemic swallowed the UFC’s schedule. In the time since, the UFC has reportedly tried to book Edwards for a short-notice title shot against Kamaru Usman on July 12, but was turned down with the fighter citing a lack of time to train. Jorge Masvidal stepped up instead for that event.

Edwards has reportedly turned down fights against Colby Covington and Geoff Neal in the time since, and his recent turning down of Chimaev was the final straw.

However, Edwards later denied the ESPN report on Twitter, claiming it was actually the other fighters who turned him down. He then welcomed a fight against Chimaev, Chimaev responded, and here we are.

Will Khamzat Chimaev’s meteoric rise continue?

Khamzat Chimaev of Chechnya celebrates after his knockout victory over Gerald Meerschaert.
Khamzat Chimaev is one win away from being a superstar, according to Dana White. (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

It’s hard to think of a rise in MMA more dominant than that of Chimaev.

The 26-year-old is 9-0 and hasn’t just defeated his first three UFC opponents. He’s destroyed them.

According to UFC’s stats, Chimaev has outstruck his last three opponents 87-1. He dominated John Phillips and Rhys McKee in the span of 10 days in July, easily controlling them as a grappler. Then he did this to UFC veteran Gerald Meerschaert:

With a start like that, it’s clear why UFC fans and White are excited. Chimaev has been champing at the bit for his next fight, and he’s aimed high. Among the fighters he’s called out on social media are Darren Till, Nate Diaz, Chris Weidman, Israel Adesanya, Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone.

“They will fight, it will be a great fight. He can stop calling everybody out on Twitter now. He’s got an opponent,” White said on “The Jim Rome Show.” “This kid is one fight away from being a massive superstar. If he can beat Leon Edwards, he’s going to be a massive superstar in the UFC.”

As fun as Chimaev’s performances have been, Edwards figures to be by far his greatest challenge. The British fighter is Chimaev’s first ranked opponent, and he’s going pretty high up the rankings for his first try.

One more win, and a title shot might not be too far away for Chimaev, even if he ends up taking more than one strike.

More from Yahoo Sports: