Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza was the first UFC fighter to be pulled from a bout because of the coronavirus back in May. Now, he will make his Octagon return.
Souza, a perennial contender, will meet surging middleweight Marvin Vettori at UFC 256 on Dec. 12, sources told ESPN. No location has been officially set for the event. ESPN has Souza ranked No. 10 in the world at 185 pounds.
Souza (26-8, 1 NC) has dropped two straight, most recently a split-decision loss to new UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz last November. The Brazilian submission artist competed against Blachowicz at light heavyweight, but will now be coming back down to middleweight. Souza, 40, is a former Strikeforce middleweight champion.
At UFC 249 on May 9, Souza was supposed to fight Uriah Hall, but he was pulled one day before the event -- the UFC's first following a COVID-19 hiatus -- because he and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus. While Souza was the first, it has been commonplace since then for fighters to test positive for the virus and have to withdraw from events.
Vettori (15-4-1) has won three straight and is closing in on being a top contender. The Italy native's last loss was to now-champion at middleweight Israel Adesanya -- and that was a close split decision in 2018. Vettori, 27, sports a 5-2-1 UFC record.
It's unclear what fight will headline UFC 256, but UFC women's featherweight and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is expected to defend her featherweight belt against Megan Anderson on the card.