The UFC’s final event of the year is the latest casualty in a string of main event cancellations or changes. UFC Vegas 17, slated for Dec. 19, on Tuesday lost its headliner after Leon Edwards was pulled from his bout with Khamzat Chimaev after he tested positive for COVID-19.
UFC broadcast partner ESPN on Tuesday reported that Edwards was out of the bout with a severe case of COVID-19. He apparently hasn’t been able to train at all for the bout with Chimaev and has lost 12 pounds in four days.
Chimaev, who made his UFC debut in July and has reeled off three straight victories in the Octagon, had hoped to use Edwards as his stepping stone to the top of the welterweight division.
No. 3 ranked Edwards last fought in July of 2019. He had hoped to return to face former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in March, but the nearly global lockdown forced the event’s cancellation.
UFC’s final leg of 2020 plagued by COVID-19 cancellations
Every one of the UFC’s final six events of a pandemic plagued 2020 has suffered a change to its main event or outright cancellation. Most have COVID-19 to blame.
UFC Vegas 14 on Nov. 14 was originally slated to feature former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos returning to the 155-pound division opposite Islam Makhachev. Paul Felder stepped in to face dos Anjos on short notice when Makhachev withdrew because of a staph infection.
UFC 255 on Nov. 21 was supposed to feature Deiveson Figueiredo’s first flyweight title defense opposite Cody Garbrandt. That bout was nixed after Garbrandt fell out because of COVID-19. Figueiredo instead successfully defended his belt against Alex Perez.
The following week’s UFC Vegas 15 heavyweight main event between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis was canceled the morning of the weigh-in when Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19. Co-main eventers Anthony Smith and Devin Clark were elevated to headlining status.
This week’s UFC Vegas 16 main event between Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland shifted gears after Holland tested positive for COVID-19. Holland was moved to the Dec. 12 UFC 256 fight card to face Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Jacare’s opponent, Marvin Vettori, has been enlisted to fight Hermansson in the UFC Vegas 16 main event in a swap of opponents.
UFC 256 has undergone several changes, though none were COVID-19 related. Having gone through several championship main event cancellations, UFC 256 finally landed on Figueiredo making a quick return to defend his belt for the second time. Barring any more changes, he will headline the card opposite No. 1 contender Brandon Moreno, who also fought and won at UFC 255.
With Edwards vs. Chimaev nixed, UFC Vegas 17 may now feature a welterweight bout between Stephen Thompson and Geoff Neal, two ranked contenders that were already inked for the Dec. 19 fight card. UFC officials, however, have not confirmed the new main event yet.
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